Fred Ebb (Fred Ebb)

Fred Ebb

Music publisher Tommy Valando introduced Fred Ebb to Kander in 1962. After a few songs such as “My Coloring Book,” Kander and Ebb wrote a stage musical, Golden Gate, that was never produced. However, the quality of the score convinced producer Harold Prince to hire them for their first professional production, the George Abbott-directed musical Flora the Red Menace, based on Lester Atwell’s novel Love is Just Around the Corner. Although it won star Liza Minnelli a Tony Award, the show closed quickly. Their second collaboration, Cabaret, was considerably more successful, running for 1,165-performances. Directed by Prince and based on the John Van Druten play I Am a Camera (which, in turn, was based on the writing of Christopher Isherwood), the musical starred Jill Haworth as Sally Bowles, Bert Convy as Clifford Bradshaw, Lotte Lenya as Fräulein Schneider and Joel Grey as the emcee. The original Broadway production opened on November 20, 1966 and won eight of the 11 Tony Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Musical and Best Score. Adapted into a film by Bob Fosse, it won eight Academy Awards, though not Best Picture. It was revived three times, first in 1987 with Grey reprising his role and again in 1998 in a long-running revival, originally starring Alan Cumming as the emcee and Natasha Richardson as Sally Bowles. The third revival began in 2014 and also starred Alan Cumming this time alongside Michelle Williams.

Their next few works were less successful: The Happy Time, directed by Gower Champion and starring Robert Goulet, ran for less than a year. Zorba, directed by Prince, also ran less than a year, though it was more successful in its 1983 revival; and 70, Girls, 70, which was originally intended as an off-Broadway production, closed after 35 performances. In 1972, he wrote the television special, Liza with a Z. In 1974, Kander, Fred Ebb and Fosse, contributed to Liza (concert), a concert for Minnelli on Broadway. In 1973 Ebb wrote the television special that marked Frank Sinatra’s comeback from retirement, Magnavox Presents Frank Sinatra (also known as Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back). The show featured Sinatra and guest star Gene Kelly in duet on the song “Can’t Do That Anymore”, written by Fred Ebb for his abandoned musical with Kander and Dale Wasserman, Wait for Me, World!. In 1975, the team wrote the score to Funny Lady, the sequel to Funny Girl. Chicago (1975) had mixed reviews but ran for more than two years. Starring Chita Rivera, Jerry Orbach and Gwen Verdon in her last Broadway role, it suffered from a cynical attitude, which contrasted with the record-breaking popularity of A Chorus Line. Though rumors of a film production directed again by Fosse were heard, the show did not seriously re-surface until 1996, when it was revived as part of the Encores! series. A huge hit, the minimalist production transferred to Broadway and holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. It is the second longest-running show in Broadway history, behind only The Phantom of the Opera, having played its 7,486th performance on November 23, 2014, surpassing Cats.

Fred Ebb himself wrote the book for Shirley MacLaine’s Broadway solo revue in 1976. The following year, Kander and Ebb worked with Minnelli and Martin Scorsese twice: first, in the film New York, New York, which had them write what is their best-known song, the title track; and, again in The Act, a musical about a fictional nightclub act. It ran for under ten months. After contributing a song to Phyllis Newman’s one-woman musical, The Madwoman of Central Park West, the team wrote Woman of the Year, which starred Lauren Bacall and won the team their second Tony Award for Best Score. The Rink (1984) teamed Kander and Ebb again with Minnelli and Rivera. The cast also included Jason Alexander and Rob Marshall. Following the closure of the show after six months, Kander and Ebb would not produce new material, save for a song in Hay Fever in 1985, for nine years. In 1991, the revue And The World Goes ‘Round opened off-Broadway, which brought Karen Ziemba, Susan Stroman and Scott Ellis to the attention of the theatre community. The team’s musical adaptation of Kiss of the Spider Woman opened in 1993, starring Chita Rivera. Reunited with director Harold Prince, the show ran for more than two years and won them their third and last Tony Award for best score. The team’s last original work to reach Broadway during Ebb’s life opened in 1997. Steel Pier brought together Ziemba, Ellis and Stroman and though the show was nominated for 11 Tonys, it won none and closed after two months. It also featured Kristin Chenoweth. In 1997, Ebb reworked lyrics to Richard Rodgers’ melody for the television production of Cinderella. Two decades earlier, Fred Ebb refused the opportunity to write the musical Rex with Rodgers. The team also had two works produced outside New York. Over & Over, an adaptation of the Thornton Wilder play The Skin of Our Teeth, was performed at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia in 1999 and has been revamped for a 2007 staging by the Westport Country Playhouse under the title All About Us. The Visit, starring Chita Rivera and John McMartin, was presented by the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, as well as the Signature in Arlington (with George Hearn replacing McMartin).

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Born

  • April, 08, 1928
  • USA
  • Manhattan, New York

Died

  • September, 11, 2004
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • heart attack

Cemetery

  • Green-Wood Cemetery
  • Brooklyn, New York
  • USA

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