Long distance: Revisit a chapter in America’s songbook

The Ordway's Broadway Songbook series this weekend features a variety of Betty Comden and Adolph Green's songs.

Was there anything Betty Comden and Adolph Green couldn't do?

The Broadway and Hollywood writing team, known the world over as simply "Comden and Green," staked a couple of special claims in the chapter of the great American songbook, and audiences will have a chance to reacquaint themselves with the duo when the Ordway's Broadway Songbook series sings them back to life in a series of concerts June 13-15 in St. Paul.

Known for their blockbuster hit songs, including "New York, New York," "Just In Time," and "Applause," Comden and Green won a dozen Tony Awards, garnered two Oscar nominations, and hold the distinction of being one of the longest song-writing teams in history, with a career sprawling over six decades. Comden was also one of the few successful women lyricists and libretto writers on Broadway, especially in its golden era, which was largely dominated by men.

The Ordway will focus on the pair's lyric-writing, where they partnered with composers as varied as Leonard Bernstein, Cy Coleman, and Charles Strouse, and to do it they'll employ a cast featuring Robert Droddy, Elena Glass, Amasia Gordon, Reid Harmsen, Peggy O'Connell, Carl Schoeborn, Erin Schwab, Kirby Trymucha-Duresky and Regina Marie Williams.

While Comden and Green often performed their own work, especially on "The Ed Sullivan Show," they also wrote screenplays, including much-venerated classics like "Singin' in the Rain" and "Auntie Mame."


Even more impressive is the breadth of their work on stage, which included sophisticated-defining lyrics for scores such as "On The Town" and "Wonderful Town," contemporary bookmarks including "Bells Are Ringing," "Subways Are For Sleeping," "Fade Out — Fade In, " and "Applause," faux-operetta with "On The Twentieth Century," and near-genuine opera, as in "A Doll's Life." They chronicled the struggle for African American equality in "Hallelujah, Baby!" and had a late-career hit with the endearing "Will Rogers Follies."

Oh, yeah, and they wrote the blockbuster Mary Martin vehicle "Peter Pan," which put the immortal song "Never Never Land" in the Broadway canon.

All that for $37. That's not a deal, it's a steal.

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