Producers Support the Changing Focus of Composers
We have come to the point where we can make two critical observations that apply to all successful producers, namely their ability to manage changes in musical format and their ability to transition from known, successful composers to new, inexperienced composers. No matter the experience of the composer, a producer’s faith in his composer is immense; for there is just no way to know whether the composer’s next show will be any good, either commercially or artistically. Composers, no matter how skilled, have been known to lay an egg every now and then.
Because the outcome is unknown and because the production and creative sides of show business are highly collaborative, the key for every producer has been to assemble a team that is capable of delivering a successful outcome.
In an example of producers who took a chance on a new composer, we will highlight the work of Elizabeth Marley and Ray Comstock, who provided an incubation period at the Princess Theatre for Jerome Kern. During this period of time, Kern would learn to trust in his instincts and develop his compositional skills.
Another part of the incubation period taught Kern much about the collaboration between composer and librettist. A good librettist can inspire a great composer to do extraordinary things. Great athletes call the process “getting into a zone.” It is the same with composers; they need to be challenged to go beyond the norms of past work.
We should note here that Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) was the catalyst for both Kern and Richard Rodgers; neither composer had achieved full stature until working with Hammerstein. Both achieved legendary status after working with him. It is important to recognize this “inspirational factor” as a key to the assessment of musical theatre.