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The Dress Circle: Raiding the Classics with Wright and Forrest

Pop music has long had a history of “borrowing” themes from the classics, and we’re beginning a two-program series looking at how Broadway and Hollywood have done the same thing on this week’s Dress Circle (7/18 7:00 p.m.) as we Raid the Classics with Wright and Forrest.  Irving Berlin borrowed music of Robert Shuman and was “Ragging the Traumerei.”  Chopin was the source for composer Ted Mossman and lyricist Buddy Kaye who turned Chopin’s Polonaise in A flat major into a huge hit with “Till the End of Time,” and Barry Manilow along with lyricist Adrienne Anderson had another Chopin hit with “Could It Be Magic” based on Chopin’s Opus 287, No. 20.  On Broadway, many composing teams have turned to the classics for source material for book shows, most of the time, crediting those from whom they borrowed, but not always.   We’ll be looking at four shows mounted by Robert Wright and Chet Forrest in this first installment.  

They turned to Edvard Grieg and many of his best-loved melodies for “The Song of Norway” in 1944.  

In 1953, it was Alexander Borodin’s turn with a focus on the Polovstian Dances from his opera “Prince Igor” for the incredibly popular “Kismet.” 

Sergei Rachmaninoff was next in 1965 for a problematic musical based on the mystery surrounding Anastasia entitled “Anya” which has a lovely score regardless of the problems with the book, and finally, another interesting adaptation in “Magdalena,” for which they turned to Hector Villa-Lobos for inspiration.   Once again, the music is intriguing as they didn’t just use single pieces but combined themes to achieve their desired results, but the book for “Magdalena” suffered from being too political and too far removed from Broadway audiences. 

Join us for some fabulous music and test your familiarity with the works of these great composers.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
Ted Otten is co-host of The Dress Circle