Lerner and Loewe

Not at all Gilbert and Sullivan but .................
Born in Berlin in 1904 to a musical family, Frederick "Fritz" Loewe was raised to be a concert pianist. By the time he was thirteen he had appeared as the Berlin Symphony's youngest piano soloist, and by fifteen his composition Katrina was a hit song throughout Europe.
In 1924 Loewe relocated to the United States with the intention of advancing his musical career. Frustration with learning the language and composing in an American style led Loewe to abandon the idea of working towards a career in music. For most of the next decade, Loewe travelled the country and engaged in such professions as a night-spot pianist, a riding instructor, a gold prospector, a mail deliverer, and ship's pianist for a liner carrying anti-Prohibition passengers to and from Miami and Havana.
In the 1930s Loewe was back in New York composing songs while working full-time as pianist at a beer garden in Manhattan; by 1934, the composer had two of his songs incorporated in the Broadway shows Petticoat Fever and Illustrators Show (with lyrics by Earle Crooker); Loewe and Crooker included one of the songs in their 1937 collaboration Salute To Spring, Loewe's first musical, which premiered in St Louis.
The next year, Loewe and Crooker presented Great Lady, the composer's first piece produced on Broadway, which closed after only 20 performances. Four years later, in 1942, Loewe introduced himself to lyricist Alan Jay Lerner at the famous theatrical club, Lambs.
Alan Jay Lerner was born in 1918, the son of a clothing manufacturer. His interests, however, were in music. As a child, he was quite proficient on piano. His college years were spent at Harvard, from where he graduated in 1940, but he spent his summers studying piano and music theory at Juilliard.
An unfortunate accident while boxing left him blind in one eye, which was to be the source of much embarrassment throughout his professional life. Before his partnership with Loewe, Alan Lerner did some work for radio, including writing comedy for Victor Borge.
Twenty-four year old Lerner and thirty-eight year old Loewe began a two decade musical collaboration with Life Of The Party (1942). While their first work was not enthusiastically received, it did solidify their partnership. They turned out two more musicals, What's Up (1943) and The Day Before Spring (1945) before scoring their first major success with Brigadoon (1947), which boasted laurels from the Drama Critics Circle - the first musical comedy awarded best play of the season.
Additional musical theatre credits include Paint Your Wagon (1951) and one of the foremost American stage hits, My Fair Lady (1956), which ran for over 2,700 performances. Although the opening of their next work, Camelot (1960), was plagued with problems, the show was quickly revised and finally met with much critical acclaim, running for over 900 performances and garnering two Tony awards. The Broadway musical partnership dissolved two years later, in 1962, but they did reconcile for a stage adaptation of their film, Gigi; in 1973.
The Lerner and Loewe team definitely made their mark on the refinement of the American musical by contributing significantly to the development of characters who were realistic and vividly three-dimensional. During the last years of his life, Loewe was practically inactive in composition, and passed away in 1988 at the age of 84. Lerner died in 1986 at the age of 68.
My Fair Lady now makes it to the Theatre Royal stage in Hobart.
"Great show, enjoyed every moment " Michael Topfer, G&S member, 1999

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This page was last updated on 5th August 1999.