Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Industrial Musicals!

Hey everybody!  While I work on the next Queer Vintage post--expect it later this week--I thought I'd share something a friend sent me: the Industrial Musical!

The idea of a musical as a corporate invention isn't anything new, particularly in New York--much of Broadway is for-profit--but  this Studio 360 story talks about the musical expressly written for a business, and it may be the best thing I've ever read about theatrical history.

In the 1950s-70s, businesses would hire writers to write short musicals to educate their sales force and staff about new products--a purely brilliant idea, given how much easier it can be to remember information put to a tune.  And businesses didn't just hire any ol' scribe.  Heard of Fiddler on the Roof?  Five years before its debut (and the same year he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Fiorello!) Jerry Bock co-wrote the Ford Tractor Musical Ford-i-fy Your Future.

Like Cabaret?  You just might enjoy Go Fly a Kite, General Electric's 1966 musical, written by Kander and Ebb: 

More into romance?  Check out "My Bathroom," from American Standard's vaguely threateningly titled 1969 musical The Bathrooms are Coming:

Prefer some good old patriarchy?  How about "An Exxon Dealer's Wife," from Put Yourself in their Shoes, Exxon 1979.  Best lyric?
"This dealer's wife is a full-service island!"

For more songs, including one of Bock's creations and another sung by The Florence Henderson, check out Steve Young's website, or get your hands on his book, Everything's Coming Up Profits.

Listen to the whole story here:


  1. YES! My (opera singer) friends came across those the other month and spent a while listening to them. (Is "My Bathroom" acceptable audition repertoire?) They're brilliant. I'm so glad someone else stumbled on them too.

    1. Um if you sang that I would cast you instantly. I love kitsch, and so I was *thrilled* to read that article. It's also, frankly, really awesome to see what else composers like Kander and Ebb--who you never really think about having to shill stuff--did so they had the opportunity to write the big shows we know today.