This week the theater community mourns the loss of Martin Charnin. Best known as the creator, director and lyricist of Annie, his career started onstage in the original production of West Side Story. He continued working on Broadway and national tours throughout his life.
"I worked with Martin on several projects over the past five years — both in Cleveland and New York," recalls TMTP Founding Director Bill Rudman. "He never failed to amaze me with his encyclopedic knowledge of musical theater history, his dedication to his lyric-writing craft, and one more thing: Martin had great chutzpah; nearly every one of his musicals, including Annie, was conceived and spearheaded by…Martin. He was a terrific lyricist, yes — but more than that, for some 60 years, he was a true Broadway Baby."
Charnin joined TMTP for a very special Member Event in 2016. He sat down with Rudman in front of a live studio audience at Playhouse Square to record an episode of Footlight Parade discussing his "Top 10" favorite songs of his career. Check out the link below to hear an excerpt from that episode. TMTP also produced an in-depth three-part Footlight Parade focusing on Charnin's career that will air locally October 26th, November 2nd and November 9th.
Musical theater is considered one of the greatest American art forms. So we thought it was only appropriate to honor Independence Day with a nod to patriotism on Broadway. Here are our staff picks for some of their favorite musical numbers.
BILL RUDMAN (Founding Director)
"God Bless America" by Irving Berlin
Many people don't realize that Berlin wrote it for a World War I Broadway revue, and though it wasn't used then, his impulse was musical theater. Berlin was the quintessential immigrant; as his daughter Linda Emmet observed, "America was his home sweet home."
HEATHER MEEKER (Executive Director)
The songs from School House Rock
Decades before my kids laughed while King George sang "You'll Be Back" in Hamilton, I learned musical American history lessons from songs like "No More Kings" in the Saturday morning School House Rock series. And guess what? The music and lyrics for that 1975 song were written by none other than Lynn Ahrens, who went on to write Seussical, Ragtime and Once on this Island. "Looks like it's going to be a free country!"
HEIDI LANG (Director of Development and Community Engagement)
"Yankee Doodle Dandy" by George M. Cohan
I remember watching the movie as a kid with James Cagney, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and just loving it. I would always try to dance and sing-a-long when this song came on. It takes us all back to a period in our history where we could all unite around a very simple idea.
JOANNA MAY CULLINAN (Director of Marketing)
"The Old Red Hills of Home" from Parade
It's an incredible opening number that displays the dedication young soldiers have to their country. In this case, it's a confederate soldier so there's a duality that exists in the song. The character's honor and passion is beautiful, but it also reveals how broken our nation was and continues to be.
NANCY MAIER (Associate Artistic Director)
"A New Deal for Christmas" from Annie
This is a fun mixture of the political setting of the time and the joy of Christmas - it seems to perfectly capture the joyful conclusion to Annie’s story and the hope that Roosevelt‘s New Deal brought to the country.
JODI MAILE KIRK ( Associate Director of Active Learning)
"The Story of Tonight" from Hamilton
I love the lyric “tomorrow there’ll be more of us” because it reminds me that even when battles for justice and freedom seem insurmountable, change begins with individual people fighting for and acting upon their beliefs.
BRIDIE SRSEN (Kids Love Musicals! Program Coordinator)
"Ragtime" from Ragtime
Maybe I'm a bit bias right now, but America is and SHOULD BE a Melting Pot! We all need to respect and appreciate each other's differences -- especially in our current political climate. The sooner we start with providing each other more grace, compassion and understanding the faster our country will heal and thrive.
DEBBIE SCHINKER (Administrative Consultant)
Pick one? Impossible! Here are my top 3: Irving Berlin's "Song of Freedom" from Holiday Inn "The House I Live In" from Let Freedom Sing and "America" from West Side Story. Happy Independence Day!
The Musical Theater Project's authors include Bill Rudman, Heather Meeker and Joanna May Cullinan - and guest writers from time to time!