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Paco's POV

Paco's POV: Once Upon a Mattress Overview

YAA is excited to have the return of a beloved blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these regularly to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on, Once Upon a Mattress. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!


Dear YAAOrchestra,

Now that we’ve a couple of solid orchestra rehearsals under our belts and you’ve heard the pitiful renditions of the lyrics from Mr. Sanz and myself, you should be ready to delve into the story, the roots behind the story, the composer and some of the wonderfully ironic and idiosyncratic characteristics of our main characters: Winnifred and Dauntless, the author – Hans Christian Andersen, the composer, Mary Rodgers and the lyricist, Marshall Barer.

Starting with what you have heard and have learned, the incalculably exquisite wordsmithing of the lyrics by Marshall Barer (1923 – 1998) created lines full of ironic turns of phrases. In the opening lines,

“Many moons ago in a far-off place lived a handsome prince with a gloomy face for he did not have a bride. Oh, he sighed "Alas" And he pined, Alas, but, alas, the prince couldn't find a lass who would suit his mother's pride.”

He sets out the dilemma/conflict of the story in two short sentences and using homonymic turns of the phrase ‘alas and alack’ between exclamations, nouns and verbs we learn that we lack a lass.

If you’ve not read the script, YAA has provided here.

The composer is pure Broadway royalty. Mary Rodgers (1931 – 2014) was the daughter of Richard Rodgers (Rodgers and Hart, or Rodgers and Hammerstein) Though she collaborated with the likes of Stephen Sondheim and Sammy Cahn and had many of her songs recorded by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and others, her first musical foray Once Upon a Mattress may have been her most successful venture on the Great White Way (Broadway.)

Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) was a Danish author; a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, though he is best remembered for his fairy tales. His most famous fairy tales include "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Mermaid," "The Nightingale," "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Red Shoes", "The Princess and the Pea," "The Snow Queen," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Little Match Girl," and "Thumbelina." His version of The Princess and the Pea was one of his shorter stories and almost a throw-off as there were several similar fairytales that already existed when he first read it as a child (possibly the Swedish version.) Even so, it caught the eye and imagination of Mary and Marshall.

Dauntless: an adjective meaning – showing fearlessness and determination (save maybe in the face of his mother, the queen, Aggravain.) Dauntless had matured and was past the marrying age because he could not find a bride that would suit his mother, how aggravating is that to our tale.

Winnifred the Woebegone is our heroine. The indefatigable and undeniably indelicately aggressive yet shy princess-frog “that came from the land of the foggy, foggy dew where walking through the meadow in the morning is like walking through glue!”

Remember that the premise of this story is, according to the King and Queen, is that true royalty can only be tested by one's sensitivity; the ability to be upset by a pea under a stack of mattresses. And consider the young lady who swims a moat, wrestles like a Greek, drinks like a lord, etc. and you begin to see the ironic comedy of the play.

Paco Cosio-Marron

YAAOrchestra Manager

PACO's POV: The Synopsis of Our Musical


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

The convict Jean Valjean is released from a French prison after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread and for subsequent attempts to escape from prison. When Valjean arrives at the town of Digne, no one is willing to give him a job or shelter because he is an ex-convict. Desperate, Valjean knocks on the door of M. Myriel, the kindly bishop of Digne. Myriel treats Valjean with kindness, and Valjean repays the bishop by stealing his silverware. When the police arrest Valjean, Myriel covers for him, claiming that the silverware was a gift. The authorities release Valjean and Myriel makes him promise to become an honest man. Eager to fulfill his promise, Valjean masks his identity and enters the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. Under the assumed name of Madeleine, Valjean invents an ingenious manufacturing process that brings the town prosperity. He eventually becomes the town’s mayor.

Fantine, a young woman from Montreuil, lives in Paris. She falls in love with Tholomyès, a wealthy student who gets her pregnant and then abandons her. Fantine returns to her home village with her daughter, Cosette. On the way to Montreuil, however, Fantine realizes that she will never be able to find work if the townspeople know that she has an illegitimate child. In the town of Montfermeil, she meets the Thénardiers, a family that runs the local inn. The Thénardiers agree to look after Cosette as long as Fantine sends them a monthly allowance.

In Montreuil, Fantine finds work in Valjean/Madeleine’s factory. Fantine’s coworkers find out about Cosette, however, and Fantine is fired. The Thénardiers demand more money to support Cosette, and Fantine resorts to prostitution to make ends meet. One night, Javert, Montreuil’s police chief, arrests Fantine. She is to be sent to prison, but Madeleine intervenes. Fantine has fallen ill, and when she longs to see Cosette, Madeleine promises to send for her. First, however, he must contend with Javert, who has discovered Madeleine’s criminal past. Javert tells Madeleine that a man has been accused of being Jean Valjean, and Madeleine confesses his true identity. Javert shows up to arrest Valjean while Valjean is at Fantine’s bedside, and Fantine dies from the shock.

After a few years, Valjean escapes from prison and heads to Montfermeil, where he is able to buy Cosette from the Thénardiers. The Thénardiers turn out to be a family of scoundrels who abuse Cosette while spoiling their own daughter, Eponine. Valjean and Cosette move to a run-down part of Paris. Javert discovers their hideout, however, and they are forced to flee. They find refuge in a convent, where Cosette attends school and Valjean works as a gardener.

Marius Pontmercy is a young man who lives with his wealthy grandfather, M. Gillenormand. Because of political differences within the family, Marius has never met his father, Georges Pontmercy. After his father dies, however, Marius learns more about him and comes to admire his father’s democratic politics. Angry with his grandfather, Marius moves out of Gillenormand’s house and lives as a poor young law student. While in law school, Marius associates with a group of radical students, the Friends of the ABC, who are led by the charismatic Enjolras. One day, Marius sees Cosette at a public park. It is love at first sight, but the protective Valjean does his utmost to prevent Cosette and Marius from ever meeting. Their paths cross once again, however, when Valjean makes a charitable visit to Marius’s poor neighbors, the Jondrettes. The Jondrettes are in fact the Thénardiers, who have lost their inn and moved to Paris under an assumed name. After Valjean leaves, Thénardier announces a plan to rob Valjean when he returns. Alarmed, Marius alerts the local police inspector, who turns out to be Javert. The ambush is foiled and the Thénardiers are arrested, but Valjean escapes before Javert can identify him.

Thénardier’s daughter Eponine, who is in love with Marius, helps Marius discover Cosette’s whereabouts. Marius is finally able to make contact with Cosette, and the two declare their love for each other. Valjean, however, soon shatters their happiness. Worried that he will lose Cosette and unnerved by political unrest in the city, Valjean announces that he and Cosette are moving to England. In desperation, Marius runs to his grandfather, M. Gillenormand, to ask for M. Gillenormand’s permission to marry Cosette. Their meeting ends in a bitter argument. When Marius returns to Cosette, she and Valjean have disappeared. Heartbroken, Marius decides to join his radical student friends, who have started a political uprising. Armed with two pistols, Marius heads for the barricades.

The uprising seems doomed, but Marius and his fellow students nonetheless stand their ground and vow to fight for freedom and democracy. The students discover Javert among their ranks, and, realizing that he is a spy, Enjolras ties him up. As the army launches its first attack against the students, Eponine throws herself in front of a rifle to save Marius’s life. As Eponine dies in Marius’s arms, she hands him a letter from Cosette. Marius quickly scribbles a reply and orders a boy, Gavroche, to deliver it to Cosette.

Valjean manages to intercept the note and sets out to save the life of the man his adopted daughter loves. Valjean arrives at the barricade and volunteers to execute Javert. When alone with Javert, however, Valjean instead secretly lets him go free. As the army storms the barricade, Valjean grabs the wounded Marius and flees through the sewers. When Valjean emerges hours later, Javert immediately arrests him. Valjean pleads with Javert to let him take the dying Marius to Marius’s grandfather. Javert agrees. Javert feels tormented, torn between his duty to his profession and the debt he owes Valjean for saving his life. Ultimately, Javert lets Valjean go and throws himself into the river, where he drowns.

Marius makes a full recovery and is reconciled with Gillenormand, who consents to Marius and Cosette’s marriage. Their wedding is a happy one, marred only when Valjean confesses his criminal past to Marius. Alarmed by this revelation and unaware that it was Valjean who saved his life at the barricades, Marius tries to prevent Cosette from having contact with Valjean. Lonely and depressed, Valjean takes to his bed and awaits his death. Marius eventually finds out from Thénardier that Valjean saved Marius’s life. Ashamed that he mistrusted Valjean, Marius tells Cosette everything that has happened. Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean’s side just in time for a final reconciliation. Happy to be reunited with his adopted daughter, Valjean dies in peace.

The synopsis of our musical is from Spark Notes -

Paco's POV: 24601 and Jean Valjean

YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

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Les Misérables is fiction.  That having been said, Victor Hugo took history seriously into account in creating the background and the characters in his work.  It will be incumbent on us to know and understand the historical backdrop of the time his novel covers (roughly 1815 thru 1835,) if we are going to make sense of this story.  To that end, I beg your forbearance if I now and then wander into the historical weeds to set the context.

To help us get invested in our story, let me introduce the first character:

Jean Valjean (prisoner 24601 though it should be noted that, in the novel, Hugo never refers to Valjean by a number. This only appears in the musical.) is the protagonist of our story. Hugo depicts Valjean's long struggle to lead a normal life after serving a prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister's children during a time of economic depression and various attempts to escape from prison with three successful escapes.  In the musical, Jean only escapes from prison once (but this is the literary license taken by the French librettist and composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg and original French-language lyricists Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. An English-language libretto and English lyrics were written by Herbert Kretzmer.  We will meet these folks in a future posting.)

The base line of this story is that ex-convict Jean Valjean becomes a force for good in the world but cannot escape his criminal past.  His story, in short, is - convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's seven starving children and sent to prison for five years, he is paroled from prison nineteen years later (after four unsuccessful escape attempts added twelve years and fighting back during the second escape attempt added two extra years). Rejected by society for being a former convict, he encounters Bishop Myriel, who turns his life around by showing him mercy and encouraging him to become a new man.  He assumes a new identity and alias in order to pursue an honest life. He introduces new manufacturing techniques and eventually builds two factories and becomes one of the richest men in the area. By popular acclaim, he is made mayor. He confronts Javert, the police chief that originally sent him to prison, over Fantine's punishment, turns himself in to the police to save another man from prison for life, and rescues Cosette from the Thénardiers. Discovered by Javert in Paris because of his generosity to the poor, he evades capture for the next several years. He saves Marius from imprisonment and probable death at the barricade, reveals his true identity to Marius and Cosette after their wedding, and is reunited with them just before his death, having kept his promise to the bishop and to Fantine, the image of whom is the last thing he sees before dying. 

The inspiration for Jean Valjean began with an incident Hugo witnessed on the streets in Paris in 1829 involving three strangers and a police officer. One of the strangers was a man who had stolen a loaf of bread similar to Jean Valjean.  There are several actual events that Hugo observed that gave him the outline and some of the scenes in his books.  Valjean's character is loosely based on the life of the ex-convict Eugène François Vidocq.  Vidocq was a French criminal and criminalist whose life story inspired several writers, including Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe, and Honoré de Balzac.  Vidocq became the founder and first director of the crime-detection Sûreté Nationale as well as the head of the first known private detective agency. Vidocq is considered to be the father of modern criminology and of the French police department.  He was also a businessman and was widely noted for his social (charitable) engagement and philanthropy.  In 1828, Vidocq, having been pardoned from his previous life of crime, saved one of the workers in his paper factory by lifting a heavy cart on his shoulders as Valjean does. Hugo's description of Valjean rescuing a sailor on the Orion drew almost word for word on a Baron La Roncière's letter describing such an incident. 

Continuing to draw from history, Hugo used Bienvenu de Miollis (1753–1843), the Bishop of Digne during the time in which Valjean encounters Myriel, as the model for Bishop Myriel.  

In our next post, we will meet the bishop along with Javert, the fanatic police inspector who implacably pursues Valjean throughout our musical.

Please take some time over this holiday and the next two weeks to get the story and music in your fingers, on your lips, through your minds, hearts and souls.  


Paco's POV: An Intro to Les Mis

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YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

As we prepare to attack this colossal show based on an immense classic novel, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions to begin to understand the theme(s.)  The two most obvious subjects we need to probe are: 

1.       Who are these miserable ones?  Why are they and their lives depressingly wretched and distressing. To introduce ourselves to our cast, we will need to look at where and when they lived and how their lives came to be so melancholically hopeless.  This bleak introductory query raises the second subject we will visit:

2.       The author of Les Misérables and his epic work, Victor Hugo. Who was he? Where and when did he live?  What did he intend to represent in this five book - 1,500 page historical fiction.  It is said that histories are written by the winners and too often reflect a very one-sided view of the events. This is clearly a work about the losers, a novel not too loosely based on history.

To address the latter concisely first:

Victor Marie Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. His most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831. Besides these two novels, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages.)  Though a committed royalist (think conservative) when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of  republicanism (which was a liberal tendency in the 19th century;) his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon in Paris, an honor accorded to those who impact French culture and history for the ages.

Hugo, himself, explaining his ambitions for the novel to his Italian publisher tells us who the miserable ones are: “I don't know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone. It addresses England as well as Spain, Italy as well as France, Germany as well as Ireland, the republics that harbor slaves as well as empires that have serfs. Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind's wounds, those huge sores that litter the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: open up, I am here for you. “

So, in his five books, he wrote about his fellow citizens, the suffering people around him in France whom he observed were representative of the suffering people around the world.  He extrapolated life lessons from these vignettes and, by telling their stories, hoped to give these wretched miserables the recognition and place in history that he felt all humans deserved.  Set in the period beginning in 1815 (with the final collapse of Napoleon’s dreams of empire at Waterloo) and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.  Jean Valjean is a French peasant who, after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child, decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of mercy, but he is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade in  the center  of Paris 17 years after we met our protagonist.

That is as concisely as one can open the first pages of our adventure.  Please begin listening to the music: 

Get it in your ears, minds, hearts and souls. Imagine life in Paris in the early 19th century with the collapse of the economy and political structures after the ignominious defeat at Waterloo and the subsequent days and weeks of hardships and privations as your world has been turned upside down.  That is where our musical and we begin.  Enjoy the weekend and what, I promise, will be a life changing enterprise.

Paco's POV: Annie - An American Phenomenon


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

Mr. Berlin’s Annie…. became an international phenomenon shortly after its opening.

Annie Get Your Gun premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on May 16, 1946 and ran for 1,147 performances with Ethel Merman starring as Annie and Ray Middleton as Frank Butler.  Enjoying its popularity, the musical toured the U.S. from October 3, 1947, starting in Dallas, Texas with Mary Martin as Annie. This tour also played Chicago and Los Angeles. Martin stayed with the tour until mid-1948.  It also had international appeal and success starting with its West End premiere on June 7, 1947 at the London Coliseum where it ran for 1,304 performances and an Australian production that opened at His Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne on July 19, 1947.

The popular music translated well conveying the American culture and a French version, Annie du Far-West began production at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 19 February 1950 and ran for over a year. Its first Broadway revival was in 1966 at the Music Theater of Lincoln Center. This production opened on May 31, 1966 and ran until July 9, followed by a short 10-week U.S. Tour. It returned to Broadway at the Broadway Theatre on September 21 for 78 performances. Ethel Merman reprised her original role as Annie with Bruce Yarnell as Frank. The libretto and score were revised: The secondary romance between Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate was completely eliminated, including their songs "I'll Share it All With You" and "Who Do You Love, I Hope?", and the song "An Old-Fashioned Wedding" was specially written for the revival and added to the second act. This version of the show is the one we are performing and was the production version telecast in an abbreviated ninety-minute version by NBC on March 19, 1967.

In 1976, there was a Spanish-language version produced in Mexico City with the name of Annie es un tiro.  In 1977, Gower Champion directed a revival for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera starring Debbie Reynolds as Annie.  And in 1986 it returned to London via a David Gilmore production, with American rock star Suzi Quatro as Annie and Eric Flynn as Frank, opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre in England.

In 1999, a new production had its pre-Broadway engagement at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. This revival starred Bernadette Peters as Annie and Tom Wopat as Frank. This production had a revised book by Peter Stone and new orchestrations, and was structured as a "show-within-a-show", set as a Big Top travelling circus. "Frank Butler" is alone on stage and Buffalo Bill introduces the main characters, singing "There's No Business Like Show Business", which is reprised when "Annie" agrees to join the traveling Wild West show. The production dropped several songs (including "Colonel Buffalo Bill", "I'm A Bad, Bad Man", and "I'm an Indian Too"), but included "An Old-Fashioned Wedding". There were several major dance numbers added, including a ballroom scene.  In this version, the final shooting match between Annie and Frank ends in a tie.

Why was the show rewritten?  Shows reflect a snippet of the history, the culture and the mores of ‘its’ age.  By the late 90s, the mores and conscience of America had moved on several of the subjects depicted in the original including the roles of women, the place of American indigenous in history, and New World history as a whole.  Next time we will try to understand the times in the 40s, the 90s and now to get a better view of our musical.


Paco's POV: Meet Mr. Berlin


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

So today meet our composer: Irving Berlin (1888 - 1989)

Irving Berlin (born Israel Beilin) was an American composer and lyricist, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. His music forms a great part of the Great American Songbook. Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States at the age of five. He was one of eight children of Moses and Lena Lipkin Beilin. His father, a cantor in a synagogue, uprooted the family to America, as did many other Jewish families in the late 19th century. In 1893 they settled in New York City. Upon their arrival at Ellis Island, the name "Beilin" was changed to "Baline". According to biographer Laurence Bergreen, as an adult Berlin admitted to no memories of his first five years in Russia except for one: "he was lying on a blanket by the side of a road, watching his house burn to the ground. By daylight the house was in ashes." As an adult, Berlin said he was unaware of being raised in abject poverty since he knew no other life.

Tsar Alexander III of Russia and then Tsar Nicholas II, his son, had revived with utmost brutality the anti-Jewish pogroms, which created the spontaneous mass exodus to America. The pogroms were to continue until 1906, with thousands of other Jewish families also needing to escape, including those of George and Ira Gershwin, Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, L. Wolfe Gilbert, Jack Yellen, Louis B. Mayer (of MGM), and the Warner brothers. When they reached Ellis Island, Israel was put in a pen with his brother and five sisters until immigration officials declared them fit to be allowed into the city.

He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907, receiving 33 cents for the publishing rights, and had his first major international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. He also was an owner of the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. "Alexander's Ragtime Band" sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania." Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his stated aim being to "reach the heart of the average American," whom he saw as the "real soul of the country." In doing so, said Walter Cronkite, at Berlin's 100th birthday tribute, he "helped write the story of this country, capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives."

He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him a legend before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Easter Parade", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1943 film This is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America" which was first performed in 1938.  

Note that Mr. Berlin lived a full century and his contributions to the American music book and to American culture span many subjects and eras.  We will investigate the time when he wrote our musical and the time the musical was set in in our next email.



Francisco José Cosió Marron

YAA Orchestra ManagerYoung Artists of America at Strathmore

Paco's POV: Historical Background on Annie Get Your Gun


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

Today we are going to delve into our musical trying to get some background and history on the work. Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and a book by Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert Fields. The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank E. Butler (1847–1926).

Dorothy Fields had the idea for a musical about Annie Oakley, to star her friend, Ethel Merman. Producer Mike Todd turned the project down, so Fields approached a new producing team, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Remember, YAA did an R&H show last season.  After the success of their first musical collaboration, Oklahoma!, Rodgers and Hammerstein had decided to become producers of both their own theatrical ventures and those by other authors. They agreed to produce the musical and asked Jerome Kern to compose the music; Fields would write the lyrics, and she and her brother Herbert would write the book. Kern, who had been composing for movie musicals in Hollywood, returned to New York on November 2, 1945 to begin work on the score to Annie Get Your Gun, but three days later, he collapsed on the street due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Kern was hospitalized, and he died on November 11, 1945. The producers and Fields then asked Irving Berlin to write the musical's score; Fields agreed to step down as lyricist, knowing that Berlin preferred to write both music and lyrics to his songs. Berlin initially declined to write the score, worrying that he would be unable to write songs to fit specific scenes in "a situation show."  Hammerstein persuaded him to study the script and try writing some songs based on it, and within days, Berlin returned with the songs "Doin' What Comes Naturally", "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". Berlin's songs suited the story and Ethel Merman's abilities, and he readily composed the rest of the score to Annie Get Your Gun. The show's eventual hit song, "There's No Business Like Show Business," was almost left out of the show because Berlin mistakenly got the impression that Richard Rodgers did not like it. In imitation of the structure of Oklahoma! a secondary romance between two of the members of the Wild West Show was added to the musical during its development.

Written towards the end of the second World War, the American public was hungry for diversions from the hardships of the war effort and to be transported beyond the harsh realities of the immense loss of life and treasure. The idealizing of the “Wild West” was further abetted by the undercurrents of manifest destiny that had existed in the American psyche since the founding of the country. Because of that, some of the songs and thoughts behind them were more easily accepted or ignored then than they would be now. We will discuss this further in a different email covering history, reality, political correctness and the evolution of “American” thought. Though this musical is highly fictionalized, many of the characters were historical and it helps to understand the story line if we can get a sense of who was whom. First we take a short look at progenitor of the “Wild West Show” Buffalo Bill Cody.

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846 – 1917) was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father's hometown in Toronto Township, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory. Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872. The title “Colonel” was an honorific that was at times ascribed to veterans of the Civil War.

One of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill's legend began to spread when he was only twenty-three. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe.

Cody received the nickname "Buffalo Bill" after the American Civil War, when he had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo (American bison) meat. Cody is purported to have killed 4,282 buffalo in eighteen months in 1867 and 1868. Cody and another hunter, Bill Comstock, competed in an eight-hour buffalo-shooting match over the exclusive right to use the name, which Cody won by killing 68 animals to Comstock's 48. Comstock, part Cheyenne and a noted hunter, scout, and interpreter, used a fast-shooting Henry repeating rifle, while Cody competed with a larger-caliber Springfield Model 1866, which he called Lucretia Borgia, after the notorious beautiful, ruthless Italian noblewoman, the subject of a popular contemporary Victor Hugo opera Lucrezia Borgia. Cody explained that while his formidable opponent, Comstock, chased after his buffalo, engaging from the rear of the herd and leaving a trail of killed buffalo "scattered over a distance of three miles", Cody—likening his strategy to a billiards player "nursing" his billiard balls during "a big run"—first rode his horse to the front of the herd to target the leaders, forcing the followers to one side, eventually causing them to circle and create an easy target, and dropping them close together.


Francisco José Cosió Marron

YAA Orchestra Manager
Young Artists of America at Strathmore

Paco's POV: More On Annie


YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!

This morning we learn a bit about the star of our show.  Although, as we discussed, the storyline of Berlin’s musical is fictional, the two sharpshooters were not.  Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses in 1860 in rural Darke County, Ohio. Her father died when she was young, and Annie was sent to the county poor farm. At age 10, she was sent to work for a family who treated her cruelly -- she called them "the wolves." Eventually Annie ran away from them and was reunited with her mother. Annie helped support her family by shooting game in the nearby woods and selling it to a local shopkeeper. Her marksmanship paid off the mortgage on her mother's house and led her to enter a shooting match with touring champion, Frank Butler, on Thanksgiving Day 1875. To Butler's astonishment, the 15-year-old beat him in the competition. Butler fell in love with her and they were married the next year.

For the next few years, Frank toured with a male partner, performing feats of marksmanship on stage. But when his partner fell ill on May Day in 1882, Annie replaced him and won instant accolades for her shooting skills. Soon Butler began managing the act, leaving the spotlight to Annie. Around this time Annie adopted the professional name "Oakley," apparently from the town of Oakley, Ohio. Oakley joined the vaudeville circuit, making her own conservative costumes and distinguishing herself from the more risqué look of other performers. At one event in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1884, Oakley attracted the attention of legendary Native American warrior Sitting Bull, who adopted her and named her "Watanya Cicilla," or "Little Sure Shot." The nickname stayed with Oakley as she rose in the show business ranks. She joined Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West in 1885 and performed in the show for most of the next 17 years. Oakley dazzled audiences with her shotgun abilities, splitting cards on their edges, snuffing candles, and shooting the corks off bottles. While maintaining her modest wardrobe, she also knew how to please a crowd, blowing kisses and pouting theatrically whenever she intentionally missed a shot.

Oakley's career took off when she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody's show at the American Exposition in London in 1887. Oakley met Queen Victoria, who called her a "very clever little girl." She wowed the British papers. Despite her success, a rivalry with a fellow sharpshooter, Lillian Smith, had grown so tense that it led to Oakley's departure from the show at the end of the London engagement. She returned to the theatrical stage and toured with a rival wild west show. Then when Smith left the Buffalo Bill show, Oakley rejoined Cody in time for a triumphal three-year tour of Europe that began with the 1889 Paris Exposition. By the time it ended, Oakley was America's first female superstar. But she never forgot her roots in poverty -- stories circulated that Oakley was so frugal that she would siphon off lemonade from Cody's pitcher and carry it back to her own tent. "I've made a good deal of money in my time," Oakley said, "but I never believe in wasting a dollar of it." She and Butler gave money to orphan charities, and helped support her mother and his daughters. Oakley earned more than any performer in the show save Cody, but Oakley supplemented her income with shooting competitions on the side. With Oakley's skills — on various occasions she hit 483 of 500, 943 of 1,000, and 4,772 of 5,000 targets — she did quite well on the shooting circuit.

Oakley and Butler were in a train accident in late 1901, and shortly thereafter she left Cody's show for good. Within a year she was appearing on stage in a melodrama written for her, The Western Girl. Hopes for a quieter life were dashed in 1903, when William Randolph Hearst published a false article claiming she was in jail for stealing to support a cocaine habit. Oakley, whose "highest ambition" was "to be considered a lady," was mortified, and she ended up filing against newspapers that had libeled her, winning or settling 54 of them. That took up the bulk of her efforts until 1910, and Oakley subsequently joined another Wild West show, performing until 1913. She then enjoyed a comfortable retirement with Butler in Maryland and North Carolina, hunting and giving shooting lessons to other women and performing at charity events. During World War I, Annie also offered to raise a regiment of crack female sharpshooters, but the government ignored her, so Oakley instead raised money for the Red Cross by giving shooting demonstrations at army camps around the country.

Annie Oakley died on November 3, 1926. Frank Butler, to whom she had been married for 50 years, died 18 days later.


Francisco José Cosió Marron

YAA Orchestra Manager
Young Artists of America at Strathmore

(notes from PBS American Experience)