by Sam Maher
In December 1971, the musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona took Broadway by storm after a summer tryout at the Delacorte in Central Park. In researching the show’s history, I dug up a lot of very cool facts.
5 INSANE Facts about TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, THE MUSICAL:
Raúl Juliá and Clifton Davis in the original production. Photo: tamswitmark.com
1. Jeff Goldblum was in the original Broadway cast! He made his Broadway debut in the ensemble alongside Stockard Channing (also making her debut!). Both understudied principal roles with Stockard Channing eventually playing Julia eight times a week. I’m dying to know if Jeff Goldblum ever went on for Eglamour, the role he understudied! CC: @understudies
2. It beat Grease for the 1972 Tony Award for Best Musical. Oh, AND it also beat Follies. Sometimes, that Best Musical category is darkhorsed like a bawse (just ask Avenue Q)! That Tony probably felt especially good in the hands of Galt MacDermot (see below), whose legendary musical Hair lost just three years prior.
3. The 2005 revival, which was in Central Park like the original production, starred Oscar Issac (!), Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry, Rosario Dawson, and Broadway legend Norm Lewis. It also starred The Band’s Visit’s John Cariani as the lovable Speed, in one of the literal top 5 performances of my life. This production is what made me fall in love with the Shakespeare in the Park. Peep a (YouTube bootleg?) version of “Night Letter” from the 2005 revival here. Renee’s riffs, omg…
4. Playwright John Guare wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book…well, okay, he adapted it all from Shakespeare, but still. People don’t think of the Six Degrees of Separation playwright as a musical theater writer, but he sure is. And a good one, at that! (Fun fact: he is also listed on IBDB for “uncredited contributions” to another musical adapted from Shakespeare: Kiss Me, Kate. Omg, what’s THAT about!?!)
5. Hair composer Galt MacDermot wrote the music. And, no wonder: The show sounds like a cross between Hair and Pippin, which came out a year later. This period seems like it was a real turning point for musical theater, with Broadway being forced to reckon with the fact that rock music can and should be a part of its legacy.
Check out the Two Gentlemen of Verona Original Broadway Cast recording on Spotify by clicking below. If you’re not sure where to start, “Night Letter” (see the video above for the 2005 revival version) is a straight-up banger and “Summer, Summer”, the opening number is groovy AF.
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