Ebb, Fred, 1928-2004Variant names
Fred Ebb was born in the Bronx on April 8, 1928. He grew up in New York and studied at New York University and Columbia University. By 1951, songs with Ebb lyrics were being published and one of his early efforts was recorded by Judy Garland. Ebb's primary collaborator throughout the 1950s was Paul Klein, though he worked with several composers, including Mary Rodgers and Charles Strouse. With Klein, Ebb wrote many songs, some of which were in the Broadway revue, From A to Z (1960) as well as several shows, including the 1963 off-Broadway production of Morning Sun.
In the early 1960s Ebb's publisher, Tommy Valando introduced him to John Kander, a young composer from Missouri. Kander and Ebb instantly clicked as friends and collaborators and their partnership proved the longest lasting composer/lyricist pairing in Broadway history. With the exceptions of various independent projects, such as incidental motion picture scores Kander wrote and performer's specialty act scripts Ebb wrote, Ebb and Kander were exclusive collaborators from My Coloring Book, their first hit song in 1962, until Ebb's death in 2004.
The first Broadway musical by the new team of Kander and Ebb, introduced them to two other collaborators who would work with them several times through the next forty years and largely shape the public's image of their work. Although George Abbott directed Flora, the Red Menace (1965) it was produced by Abbott's protege, Hal Prince and starred Liza Minnelli, in her Tony award-winning Broadway debut. The show only ran a few months, but it established Kander and Ebb's relationship with Prince, who directed and produced Cabaret, (1966) their next musical. Cabaret was a financial and critical success, running on Broadway for 1,165 performances and winning 8 Tony awards, including Best Score for Kander and Ebb and Best Musical, as well as being a ground-breaking work, often touted as a landmark in the history of the concept musical. Cabaret was also adapted into an acclaimed motion picture, directed by Bob Fosse in 1972, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as awards for the film's stars Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli. Cabaret continues to be an extremely popular musical and its most recent Broadway revival ran for 6 years.
Kander and Ebb followed up Cabaret with two moderately successful shows, both of which opened in 1968 and ran about 300 performances, The Happy Time, which won Tonys for director Gower Champion and star Robert Goulet and Zorba, which was directed by Prince. Their next piece, 70, Girls, 70 (1971) was an offbeat musical comedy that did not fare as well. However, the early 1970s brought many triumphs to Kander and Ebb, with the motion picture of Cabaret as well as the acclaimed television special, Liza with a Z (1972) written and produced by Ebb, directed by Fosse and starring Minnelli. The program included new Kander and Ebb songs, for which they received an Emmy Award.
Kander and Ebb's next Broadway show was one of their biggest successes, Chicago (1975). Though its success was somewhat eclipsed by that season's blockbuster, A Chorus Line, Chicago's original production, directed by Fosse, starring Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach had a healthy run of 936 performances and was nominated for 11 Tony awards. A revival of Chicago, which originated in the Encores! Series hit Broadway in 1996 and as of this writing, was just passing the 4000-performance mark. This revival also inspired the Academy Award-winning hit motion picture adaptation of the show in 2002.
The Liza Minnelli vehicle, The Act (1977), which remains Martin Scorcese's only Broadway credit, was Kander and Ebb's next show. Around this time, they wrote songs for several motion pictures, including How Lucky Can You Get, the Oscar nominated song from Funny Lady (1975). They also wrote several songs for Scorceseâ€™s New York, New York, (1977) which starred Minnelli and Robert DeNiro, including the title song, which is arguably Kander and Ebb's most famous song. Though Minnelli introduced the song in that film, a later recording by Frank Sinatra launched its tremendous popularity, which culminated in 1985, when the Mayor proclaimed it the Official Song of the City of New York.
In 1981, Kander and Ebb's score and stars Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Cooper won Tonys for Woman of the Year. This was followed by The Rink (1984), which starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli. Their next show, Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1993) was another triumph starring Rivera. The show, which was directed by Hal Prince, ran 904 performances and won Tonys for its three stars, Rivera, Brent Carver and Anthony Crivello as well as for Kander and Ebbâ€™s score and the musical itself. Ebb's final show to open on Broadway was Steel Pier (1997), but two other Kander and Ebb projects, The Visit and The Skin of Our Teeth/Over and Over, had regional theater productions after that. One project, Curtains, that Kander, Ebb and librettist Peter Stone worked on for 20 years, was produced after Ebb and Stone's deaths in 2006 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
Fred Ebb died of a heart attack on September 11, 2004 in New York, NY. On September 14, the lights of Broadway were dimmed in his honor.
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|associatedWith||Furth, George, 1932-2008||person|
|associatedWith||Grey, Joel, 1932-||person|
|associatedWith||Hepburn, Katharine, 1907-2003||person|
|associatedWith||Lansbury, Angela, 1925-||person|
|associatedWith||Mitchell, Ruth, 1919-2000.||person|
|associatedWith||Prince, Harold, 1928-||person|
|associatedWith||Stone, Peter, 1930-2003.||person|
|associatedWith||Stratford Festival Collection (University of Guelph)||corporateBody|
|associatedWith||Theatre Aquarius Archives.||corporateBody|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Television musicals--United States|
|Theater--United States--History--20th century|
|Musical films--United States|
|Musical theater--New York (State)--New York|
|Television actors and actresses|