A Broadway overture, in addition to its function of quieting the house and getting audience members to take their seats, usually provides a medley of tunes from the show it opens, and it offers an excellent way to present those tunes in a concert setting. Of course, the typical Broadway overture is scored for a small pit band that may not exceed 20 or 30 players; the resources of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra offer a much broader palette, and a strong case for the commissioning of an expanded version of the score.
Enter veteran Sid Ramin (b. 1924), who prepared a special orchestration of the tune-filled overture to Jule Styne's Gypsy in 1996. The celebrated 1959 hit, which featured the inventive lyrics of the 29-year-old Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, starred the inimitable Ethel Merman as Rose, the ultimate stage mother.
Although he was born in London, songsmith Jule Styne (1905-1994) grew up in America; after an early career as a piano prodigy and several years as leader, arranger, and pianist for his own dance band, he made his way in the mid-1930s to Hollywood, where he eventually collaborated with lyricist Sammy Cahn on such venerable hits as "I'll Walk Alone," "Let It Snow," and "Time after Time." Styne's Broadway career was launched with High Button Shoes (which opened in 1947 and ran for over 700 performances) and went on to include Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Bells Are Ringing (1956), and Gypsy.
- Dennis Bade is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Associate Director of Publications.