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Historical Musicals

One of my hobbies is randomly reading bits from the massive one-volume Columbia Encyclopedia. Lately I’ve been finding entries I think would make successful Broadway musicals now that Hamilton has made historical musicals popular again.

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Entry #1: Salomon, Haym 1740-85 American Revolutionary financier. A Jewish emigrant from Poland, he was imprisoned in 1778 by the British in New York City for aiding the Revolutionaries and was condemned to death, but he escaped to Philadelphia. There he started a successful brokerage business. He aided Robert Morris in obtaining loans from France and pledged his own fortune to the new government to maintain its credit. Salomon was never recompensed and he died impoverished.

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That little blurb verges on untruth given how much it understates Salomon’s role in financing the American war effort against the British, and how in the last two decisive battles of the Revolutionary War, Salomon provided huge sums of money to compensate the French troops who fought on the American side, and pay for the supplies needed by the American fighters. Throughout the Revolutionary War he was the go-to guy for funding the war effort.

And then he was not recompensed and died in poverty.

One wonders (not really) why Haym’s story isn’t widely taught in American schools, though my brother tells me his Fifth Grade teacher imparted some information about Salomon to my brother’s class. My brother also suggested Salomon’s story would make a musical a la Hamilton, and the first title that came to me was Fiddler on the Roof of the American Revolution. (Needs work) Oh the pathos!

Songs from the musical include: Escape to Philadelphia, The Go-To Guy, the heartbreaking Never Recompensed, and the mega-hit Revolutionary Financier.

I’m a revolutionary financier

I lend money to the rebels without fear

With my money they buy ammo and beer

I’m a revolutionary financier

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Entry #2: McAllister, Ward 1827-95, American society leader, b. Savannah, Georgia. He was a wealthy San Francisco lawyer who moved (1852) to New York City and married (1853) a millionaire’s daughter. He established a second residence at Newport, Rhode Island and soon became arbiter of the New York and Newport social set. McAllister chose (1872) the “patriarchs”, a group of leaders from prominent New York families, and sifted out (1892) the Four Hundred – people whom he deemed members of “true” New York society. It was McAllister who groomed the famous Mrs. William Astor for her role as queen of New York society. He wrote Society As I Have Found It (1890).

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Further research into McAllister reveals he was the undisputed king of the elite set in New York until he published his book Society As I Have Found It, and the revelations therein so displeased the Four Hundred he died in disgrace.

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One wonders how McAllister became the arbiter of anything, and why so many people cared so much about his opinions. In the Broadway musical The Four Hundred, the songs will be in the talking/singing style of later Stephen Sondheim tunes, and the plot will hang on a series of creepy kinky scenes showing how McAllister gained his power over so many rich people. The play will climax with a gala ball at the Vanderbilt mansion, after which McAllister brings out his book and becomes a pariah. Oh the pathos!

Song include: A Millionaire’s Daughter, Arbiter of the Social Set, The Patriarchs, Queen of New York, Died in Disgrace, and the show’s big hit Who Gets In.

You’re in, you’re out, you’re a Yes, you’re a No.

Why? Because I say so.

And why you may ask do I get to decide?

Oh wouldn’t you like to know?

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Entry #3: Noyes, John Humphrey, 1811-86 American reformer, founder of the ONEIDA COMMUNITY b. Brattleboro, Vermont. He studied theology at Yale but lost his license to preach because of his “perfectionist” doctrine. This took its name from Mat. 5.48 and was based on the belief that man’s innate sinlessness could be regained through communion with Christ. At Putney, Vermont, he formed (1839) a society of Bible communists, later called Perfectionists. In 1846 they began the practice of complex marriage, a form of polygamy, but this so aroused their neighbors that Noyes was forced to flee. In 1848 he established another community at Oneida, N.Y. (and later a branch at Wallingford, Conn.) where he developed his religious and social experiments in communal living. By 1879 internal dissension had arisen and outside hostility became so strong that Noyes went to Canada where he spent the rest of his life.

Oneida Community: a religious society of Perfectionists established (1848) by John Humphrey NOYES. Members of the sect held all property in common and practiced complex marriage and common care of the children. The community prospered by making steel traps and silverware. In 1881 it was reorganized as a joint stock company, and the social experiments were abandoned.

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Okay. This has got everything successful musicals require. Religion, idealism, polygamy, raising children in common, and the manufacture of steel traps, climaxing with our hero and a few of his complex marriage partners fleeing to Canada. The music for The Perfectionists will feature a mix of heavy metal ballads and tantric sitar solos with sexy choreography featuring scantily clad polygamists. Oh the bathos!

Songs include: Bible Commies, Perfectionism, Children In Common, Complex Marriage, Escape to Canada, and the mega-hit Neighbors Aroused.

We got the neighbors aroused

yes we did now

With our complex foolin’ around

Yes we did now

Now we gotta get outta here

Yes we do now

Before big trouble come down

Oh yeah, before big trouble come down

fin

The Way Things Go