Duke Ellington’s Music for the Theatre

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About the Book

Duke Ellington’s son Mercer has said that his father was frustrated in only one area of musical ambition: his desire to do his own Broadway show. Though Ellington wrote many theatrical pieces, he was never able to achieve success as a composer for the stage, and today his stage shows receive little attention from music historians. Nevertheless, these works occupied a significant place in Ellington’s creative imagination, and many of the ideas he employed in their composition found their way into his other work.
Here is the first book to acknowledge Duke Ellington’s contribution to the stage. It offers a survey of every theater piece Ellington is known to have worked on during his lifetime, beginning with the 1925 revue The Chocolate Kiddies and ending with the unfinished “street opera” Queenie Pie. This large body of work includes full-length musicals, African American revues, ballets, and incidental music. The plot of each work is described and the score analyzed according to its dramatic function in the piece. Musical phrases are reproduced in the text, and associations with other well-known Ellington compositions are noted. An appendix provides a chronological listing of Ellington’s shows with song titles conveniently listed under each.

About the Author(s)

John Franceschina is a retired distinguished professor of theatre arts at Pennsylvania State University. He lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

John Franceschina
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: photos, notes, musical notation and lyrics, appendix, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2001
pISBN: 978-0-7864-0856-6
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5026-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Introduction: Dramatis Felidae      1

1. Jungle Music      11

2. The Sun-Tanned Revu-sical      28

3. “I’m Afraid I’ll Live”      46

4. “Here’s a Strange Mess”      59

5. “Night Time”      81

6. “What Color Is Virtue?”      105

7. “Skillipoop”      122

8. Fallen Angel      138

9. Water Music      161

10. Gilbert and Sullivan on Hallucinogens      170

11. “Play On!”      183

Appendix: Duke Ellington’s Compositions for the Stage, 1925-1999      191

Notes      203

Bibliography      225

Index      239

Book Reviews & Awards

“detailed”—Choice; “the first complete review of all the music Ellington wrote for the stage…an incredible amount of fresh information…a must…will be the standard reference for any further study on the subject…rich wealth of information”—The International Dems Bulletin; “provid[es] detailed and intelligent commentary”—Classic Images; “comprehensive, reliable, and readable…provides extensive new research…essential”—TDES.