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The "Godfather Of Broadway" Essay

1089 words - 5 pages

George Francis Abbott was born on June 25, 1887 in Forestville, New York. He was born to an alcoholic father and a mother who “[scorned] pretense in any form” (Folkart). After his father’s business failed, they all moved to Wyoming, where young George worked as a cowboy on nearby ranches in order to help with income. Another business failure sent George and his family to Hamburg, New York. Here, George became the captain of the high school football team, as well as the best actor on campus. He worked in a steel mill and later as a delivery boy for Western Union during his summers. After high school, he went on to the University of Rochester to become a journalist. As Folkart puts it, “that ...view middle of the document...

According to Stoner-Hawkins, “Abbott’s shows may have steered musical theater away from its potential emotional power. Because he emphasized entertainment values, Abbott tended to cut sections away from a book or music that could challenge the Broadway audience, thereby avoiding the controversial and the untried” (10). One particular adaptation in which Abbott barely left a remnant of the original was New Girl in Town – which was an adaptation of O’Neill’s play Anna Christie. Not only did he change the setting from the 1920s to the late 1800s solely to have more interesting costumes, but he also focused on “constructing characters adaptable to his musical comedy formula” and removed all the symbolism that was found in the original play (Stoner-Hawkins, 9). Altering the play so drastically seemed to be an unsuccessful and ridiculous idea to many people, however, “New Girl in Town ran for 431 performances and won the Tony award for Best Musical in 1958” (Stoner-Hawkins, 9). Abbott’s unique style with writing, re-writing, directing, and producing were all things that contributed to a change in musical theater in the 1950s; it started to become more important to emphasize entertainment and comedy prospects rather than focusing on controversial issues and seriousness.
Abbott was a legendary playwright, director, and producer who was known for his “brand of no-nonsense professionalism that made him a godfather of Broadway whose Midas touch produced commercially and artistically successful theater” (Folkart). His “gifts” won him 40 Tony awards from 1948 to 1962. He also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 (along with several other awards) for the musical about Fiorello LaGuardia, a former mayor of New York, called Fiorello! In 1982, at the age of 95, he won the Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Through the span of George Abbott’s lifetime, his greatest success was the overwhelming fact that he was involved in over 120 productions on Broadway. His first smash hit was Broadway (1926). He continued on to direct and produce Boy Meets Girl (1935), Kiss and Tell (1943), Pal Joey (1940), Call Me Madam (1950), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962). He...

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