Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org
Born in the Bronx (“New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down”), Green attended DeWitt Clinton High School. After graduating, he spent time working various odd jobs while trying to make it as an actor. During one summer job as a camp counselor, Green befriended the young Leonard Bernstein, who was working as the camp’s music counselor. The most important meeting of Green’s career, however, would happen in 1938, when he was introduced to Betty Comden. A drama student at New York University, Betty Comden began a creative partnership with Green that would last over 60 years. Together with friends John Frank, Alvin Hammer, and Judy Tuvim (later known as Judy Holliday), Comden and Green formed a cabaret act called The Revuers.Performing songs and sketches at the legendary Village Vanguard, the troupe often featured the young Bernstein as a somewhat impromptu accompanist. Below is an excerpt from a Revuers skit poking fun of the Tin Pan Alley song writing machine. In the sketch, the great composer Cole Porter becomes Cole Warter.
Comden and Green worked with their good pal Bernstein to write the musical On the Town about three sailors on leave in New York City. The musical opened on Broadway December 28, 1944 and was an immediate hit, putting the names of Comden, Green, and Bernstein on the musical map of New York. Comden and Green went on to write the book and/or lyrics for such shows as Applause, Bells Are Ringing, Do Re Mi, Subways are for Sleeping, On the Twentieth Century, and Wonderful Town. Their collaborators included Jerome Robbins, Tommy Tune, Hal Prince, and composer Jule Styne. In 1958, Comden and Green performed their own material in the two-person musical revue A Party with Comden & Green. The show was such a hit that they revived it in 1977. Adolph Green passed away on October 23, 2002 in New York, New York (it’s a helluva town). Betty Comden died exactly four years and one month later. But with On the Town currently in revival at the Lyric Theatre and On the Twentieth Century set to open at the American Airlines in March, the party with Comden and Green goes on.