Rudman expertly provides historical musical notes
“All I know about life, I learned from musicals” is Bill Rudman’s mantra which he validates with a personal depth of knowledge and love for American musicals.
Rudman told a large, receptive audience on March 20, “The musical is entertainment but it is also an art form in theater. It is uniquely American. We have given it to all the world.” His presentation was given at a Westlake-Westshore Arts Council-sponsored program at Porter Library.
The award-winning WCLV broadcaster began by playing a recorded “overture” of eight snippets from musicals. He then took note of the many people in the audience who knew four or more of the songs. “We know hundreds – they are so deeply imbedded in our culture,” Rudman said.
Rudman spotlights the history of American musicals, which spans more than 100 years. He describes the developers of the musical as “immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants who reflect the desire to assimilate into the American culture and a belief in American ideals.”
Recordings of some George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin’s music clearly exemplified this relation. He said Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” written in 1935 makes a universal statement. Parallels between public thinking and the songs of the time can be found, he added.
Subjects of musical songs fall under one of eight topics, Rudman said. The topic of “Love” headed Rudman’s list, and he added that 90 percent of all the songs come under that topic. The seven other topics he listed are: Sex; Dreams of Utopia; Patriotism; American Social Conscience; Aging; Death; and Philosophies of Life.
To illustrate the topics, names of many great composers and their music were heard or quoted, providing an entertaining glimpse of musicals through the years. Composers noted included Larry Hart, Daniel Massey, Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Steven Sondheim and more. Songs recalled included “If I Loved You,” “What”ll I Do?,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” “Funny Valentine,” “She Loves Me,” “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” “Oklahoma,” “God Bless America,” “Old Man River,” “You’ve Got to be Taught,” “Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?” “I Remember It Well,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Climb Every Mountain.”
Rudman said good music for musicals is still being written, but it is not at the center of our culture as it once was, so it is not as well known. As he has done for 23 years, Rudman continues to share his expertise on his nationally syndicated, weekly WCLV radio program, "Footlight Parade," which he produces, writes and hosts.
Publicist for Westlake-Westshore Arts Council