Happy Birthday, Will: Ten Broadway Musicals Inspired By Shakespeare's Plays | Playbill

News Happy Birthday, Will: Ten Broadway Musicals Inspired By Shakespeare's Plays The gangsters in Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate implore the audience to "Brush up your Shakespeare." In honor of William Shakespeare's 451st birthday, Playbill helps readers do just that — musical-theatre style — by taking a look back at ten Broadway musicals inspired by his plays, from Rodgers and Hart's The Boys From Syracuse to Joe DiPietro's All Shook Up (plus their rarely-seen original Playbill covers).


#The Boys From Syracuse

On Nov. 23, 1938, George Abbott, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers' The Boys From Syracuse opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre. The musical about two twins separated at birth was adapted from The Comedy of Errors.

Swingin' the Dream

On Nov. 29, 1939, Gilbert Seldes, Erik Charell, Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie de Lange's Swingin' the Dream opened on Broadway at the Center Theatre. The jazz musical, which starred Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong, was based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. It ran for only 13 performances.

Kiss Me, Kate

On Dec. 30, 1948, Cole Porter, Bella Spewack and Sam Spewack's Kiss Me, Kate premiered on Broadway at the New Century Theatre, starring Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison. The backstage musical takes place during a performance of a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

West Side Story

On Sept. 26, 1957, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story opened on Broadway starring Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence. The musical re-sets Romeo and Juliet to 1950s Manhattan.

Two Gentlemen of Verona

On Dec. 1, 1971, Galt MacDermot, John Guare and Mel Shapiro's Two Gentlemen of Verona opened on Broadway starring Jonelle Allen, Diana Davila, Clifton Davis and Raul Julia. The rock musical, based on the Shakespeare play of the same name, was first seen in summer 1971 as part of The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park season.

Rockabye Hamlet

On Feb. 17, 1976, Cliff Jones' Rockabye Hamlet opened on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre. Starring Larry Marshall and Alan Weeks, the Hamlet-based rock musical ran only seven performances.

Oh, Brother!

On Nov. 10, 1981, Donald Driver and Michael Valenti's Oh, Brother! opened on Broadway at the ANTA Theatre starring David-James Carroll and Harry Groener. The Middle East-set musical, based on The Comedy of Errors, ran only three performances.

Play On!

On March 20, 1997, Cheryl L. West's Play On!, featuring the songs of Duke Ellington, opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Carl Anderson, Cheryl Freeman and Tonya Pinkins starred in the musical, which re-set Twelfth Night in 1940s Harlem.

The Lion King

On Nov. 13, 1997, Elton John, Tim Rice, Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi's The Lion King, based on the 1994 Disney animated film, opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The musical about a lion cub prince in Africa, is partly based on Hamlet.

All Shook Up

On March 24, 2005, Joe DiPietro's All Shook Up, featuring the songs of Elvis Presley, opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre. Cheyenne Jackson starred in the Twelfth Night-inspired musical about a mysterious, leather-jacketed stranger who shakes up a small Midwestern town in the 1950s.

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