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As of Tuesday, September 28, for all programs and screenings in the Dryden Theatre, patrons must show proof of vaccination and wear masks.

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Great American Songbook

Musicals have been a staple of American cinema since the advent of sound in 1927. The ability to synchronize movement with audio brought a new breed of performers to the silver screen. When we look back, it is these performers—and perhaps the directors—we focus on as the reason for the films’ enduring quality. The composers and lyricists, while not entirely forgotten, are less often credited with the success of a film. But it is the songs we hum on the way out of the theater, and this summer, we are focusing on their creators.

“The Great American Songbook” is a term for American popular music and jazz standards from the first half of the twentieth century. Starting with the music popularized by the composers from Tin Pan Alley to the new musical plays being produced in the 1920s and 1930s to music composed directly for films, this series highlights composers and lyricists in the first few decades of cinematic musicals. From the well-known names of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin, to the lesser-known Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed, Al Dubin, Harry Warren, and Gus Kahn, this series offers an overview of musical talent that will keep you humming through the fall.

Many of the films in this series will be introduced by Michael Lasser, author, critic, and host of the nationally syndicated public radio show Fascinatin’ Rhythm for the past forty years. 

 

Events in this Series

Thursday, September 23, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

42nd Street

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook Ruby Keeler is the young ingenue in this backstage musical. She plays Peggy Sawyer, just in from Pennsylvania, trying to get her big break on Broadway. Introduction by Michael Lasser.

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Saturday, September 25, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

The Harvey Girls

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook Judy Garland is in top form in this western musical, with songs by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. Traveling on a westbound train to Sand Rock, New Mexico, Susan Bradley (Garland) is intending to marry the man she has been corresponding with but has never met.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Stormy Weather

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook The luminous Lena Horne plays nightclub singer Selina Rogers to Bill Robinson’s Bill Williamson, just returning home from World War I. Introduction by Michael Lasser

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Thursday, October 7, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Three Little Words

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook The music of songwriting team Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby is highlighted in this biography of their life and work starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. Introduction by Michael Lasser.

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Thursday, October 14, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Showboat

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s groundbreaking theatrical production is adapted in Technicolor. The beloved score features the songs “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Ol’ Man River.”

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Thursday, October 21, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

The Band Wagon

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook Director Vincente Minnelli reteams with Fred Astaire and gives Cyd Charisse one of her first starring roles as differently minded entertainers who need to come together to save their Broadway musical. Introduction by Michael Lasser.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021, 7:30 p.m.

Brigadoon

Dryden Theatre

Great American Songbook Vincente Minnelli brings Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse together to dance for the last time. Kelly’s performance of the songs “Almost Like Being in Love” and “The Heather on the Hill” is surpassed only by his dance with Charisse among the Highlands in a reprise of the latter song.

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