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16 Forgotten Golden Age Broadway Shows

The Golden Age of Broadway (1920–1959) was an era filled with iconic musicals such as “The Sound of Music,” “Show Boat” and “South Pacific. These shows are timeless and will continue to resound with future generations, but the Golden Age has plenty of (mostly undeservingly) forgotten gems that are rarely performed or recorded. Here are 16 to check out:

1. ‘Plain and Fancy’

Featuring classic numbers such as “Young and Foolish” and “This Is All Very New to Me,” this musical was one of the earliest depictions of Amish life in American media. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1955 and was revived Off-Broadway in 2006.

2. ‘Pipe Dream’

Based on John Steinbeck’s novel “Sweet Thursday,” this 1955 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is about the relationship between Doc, a marine biologist, and Suzy, a prostitute. Critics panned the show, although “Encores!” performed the musical in 2012.

3. ‘Of Thee I Sing’

This 1931 Gershwin musical is about John Wintergreen, a presidential candidate whose affair with the sensible Mary Turner lands him in hot water. The musical has been revived on Broadway twice and received an “Encores!” performance run in 2006.

4. ‘Where’s Charley?’

This 1948 Frank Loesser musical is about disguised chaperones and relationships among Oxford University students. The musical has been revived on Broadway twice and received an “Encores!” performance run in 2011.

5. ‘Conversation Piece’

This Noël Coward musical is about Paul, Duc de Chaucigny-Varennes, who has escaped the French Revolution and wishes to marry his companion, Melanie, off to a member of Brightonian aristocracy. The musical premiered in London in 1934 before transferring to New York later that year.

6. ‘The Body Beautiful’

This 1958 musical is about a Dartmouth College graduate who wants to be a successful boxer. It was the first collaboration between Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and closed after 60 performances.

7. ‘Knickerbocker Holiday’

This 1938 musical by Kurt Weill is an anti-New Deal allegory narrated by a fictional version of Washington Irving. The musical received a brief Lincoln Center run in 2011.

8. ‘Call Me Madam’

This 1950 musical is a satire on politics and philanthropy and earned Ethel Merman her first Tony Award. “Encores!” staged the musical in 1995, and Paper Mill Playhouse staged it in 1996.

9. ‘Little Mary Sunshine’

This 1959 musical is a campy spoof of operetta. Its portrayal of Native Americans, however, is deeply problematic, and a planned Broadway transfer for 2003 never materialized.

10. ‘I’d Rather Be Right’

This 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical is a satire of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. The musical, which contains the jazz standard “Have You Met Miss Jones?” was revived Off-Broadway in February 2011.

11. ‘Roberta’

This 1933 musical is about Roberta, a dressmaker whose manager, Stephanie, falls in love with a college football star, John Kent. The show’s most famous number, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” is usually performed as a ballad nowadays, but it was initially written as a mid-tempo tango piece.

12. ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’

Adapted from the classic novel of the same name, this 1951 musical is about a poor Irish family in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. A 2005 “Encores!” production starred Emily Skinner and Jason Danieley.

13. ‘Billion Dollar Baby’

This 1945 musical is about Maribelle Jones, a gold digger trying to make a name for herself during the Prohibition era. The 1998 Off-Broadway concert version starred Kristin Chenoweth.

14. ‘Rosalie’

This 1928 musical is about a princess who falls in love with a West Point cadet. A 1983 concert version starred Marianne Tatum (“Barnum”) and Richard Muenz (“Zombie Prom”).

15. ‘Fanny’

Based on Marcel Pagnol’s “Marseille” trilogy, this 1954 musical is about secrets and passion in the south of France. A 2010 “Encores!” production starred Fred Applegate (“Sister Act”) and George Hearn (“La Cage aux Folles”).

16. ‘Carnival in Flanders’

Based on the 1935 French film “La Kermesse héroïque,” this 1953 musical closed after six performances. Although the show has never been revived on Broadway or by “Encores!” its breakout song, “Here’s That Rainy Day,” is a popular standard.

Did we leave out your favorite obscure Golden Age show? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Joseph Kisiday

Joseph Kisiday is a 2016 graduate from Christopher Newport University, majoring in Music Composition. Joseph's love for theatre came at a young age through discovering the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, such as "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera." When he is not writing, Joseph can be found watching operas or Miyazaki films.

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  1. I played Alexander Throttlebottom in Of Thee I Sing my freshman year of college! That music is brimming with ear-worms!! <3

  2. I’ve read the script for #10 on the list, and it is problematic. Unlike the political satire in Strike Up the Band (1927 version), Of Thee I SIng and Let ’em Eat Cake, the many references to FDR’s cabinet imho make this a historical curiosity that is too dated to be of much interest to a general audience today.

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