MUSICALS | In a painfully unsteady two-year period that found multiple Broadway theatres occupied by long-running productions of both plays and musicals like Cactus Flower, Fiddler on the Roof, and Mame, a once thriving and regenerative Rialto began to show real cause for concern. The largely stagnant and out of touch musical stage, in particular, endured a barrage of unsatisfactory new works such as Darling of the Day, The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, Here's Where I Belong, and I’m Solomon, each of which lasted less than a month. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, meanwhile, closed during previews. Elsewhere, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé headlined Golden Rainbow; Robert Goulet and David Wayne headlined The Happy Time; and Mary Martin and Robert Preston headlined I Do! I Do! Michael Bennett emerged as a major choreographer with such mixed-bag musical comedies as A Joyful Noise, Henry, Sweet Henry, and How Now, Dow Jones; pop culture icons Eddie Fisher, Judy Garland, and Buddy Hackett brought their respective acts to the Palace; and, in 1967, the long-running production of Hello, Dolly! acquired an all-Black replacement cast led by Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.
PLAYS | Though the late 1960s saw a modest assortment of new American plays penned by the likes of Jay Allen, Robert Anderson, and Arthur Miller, the most prominent and profitable individual force on the nonmusical stage remained Neil Simon. Between December 21, 1966 and June 25, 1967, the prolific playwright enjoyed the distinction of having the original productions of Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, and The Star-Spangled Girl running on Broadway simultaneously. (Sweet Charity was also on the boards, boasting lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by Cy Coleman.) On February 14, 1968, he premiered Plaza Suite. Yet, Broadway continued to be dominated more broadly by a succession of high profile European imports, including Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Joe Orton’s Loot, Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party and The Homecoming, Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy and White Lies, and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which became the first Royal National Theatre production to make its way to the Main Stem.
On February 22, 1970, in honor of George Washington’s 238th birthday, 1776 was performed in the East Room of the White House before President and Mrs. Richard Nixon, Vice President and Mrs. Spiro Agnew, and more than 100 invited guests. The special presentation of Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards’ political smash, which focused on the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence, featured the same cast currently appearing on Broadway, with William Daniels as John Adams. The company was backed in Washington, DC by the Marine Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Peter Howard. Though the White House had reportedly sought to eliminate or censor certain scenes and songs, including “Momma Look Sharp,” the acclaimed musical was ultimately rendered in its entirety, with producer Stuart Ostrow noting, “The nature of this show requires a complete performance.”