John Harold Kander was born on March 18, 1927 in Kansas City Missouri. He is the living half of the great Broadway composing team commonly refered to as Kander and Ebb, which comprises himself and Fred Ebb. Kander attended Oberlin College... [more]
John Harold Kander was born on March 18, 1927 in Kansas City Missouri. He is the living half of the great Broadway composing team commonly refered to as Kander and Ebb, which comprises himself and Fred Ebb.
Kander attended Oberlin College and earned a master's degree from Columbia University. While working as a rehearsal pianist for the original Broadway production of Gypsy, Kander met Jerome Robbins, who hired him to write the dance music for that show. He then went on to write dance arrangements for the Broadway production of Irma La Douce. His first musical on Broadway was A Family Affair, which he wrote with James and William Goldman.
Kander was then introduced to Ebb by music publisher Tommy Valando. Kander and Ebb then wrote Golden Gate, a show that never saw the light of day, however Harold Prince was impressed by their work on the show and hired them to write Flora, the Red Menace, their first proffessional collaboration and first Broadway show together. The show was not a hit, but did give the pair exposure. This led to one of their greatest collaborations, Cabaret. Cabaret is the story of German nightclub singer Sally Bowles and her relationship with the American journalist Cliff Bradshaw against the backdrop of the growing Nazi party in Germany. The show won a Tony award for best score. A tremendous success, Cabaret was then turned into an Academy award winning film starring Liza Minelli. A 1998 revival of the show in New York was an enormous commercial hit.
Kander and Ebb then worked on a few shows that were not as successful, The Happy Time, Zorba and 70, Girls, 70. Their next big show was Chicago. While Chicago had a decent run of two years, it was eclipsed by opening the same time as the juggernaut A Chorus Line and was seen as too cynical for its own good. It would not receive its due until the 1996 revival at City Center Encores! where its cyncism was cheered and transferred to Broadway where it still runs today, one of the most successful productions of all time. Due to the success of the revival, Chicago was turned into a major motion picture that went on to win the Academy Award for best film and reinvigorate the movie musical genre for the 21st century.
The pair had moderate successes over the coming years with The Rink, The Act and Woman of the Year as well as with a revival of Zorba. In 1993, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, based on the movie of the same title, opened. A dark and serious musical, it did very well at a time when the taste for that kind of fare was dying out. The last show the pair saw produced during Ebb's life was Steel Pier, which while garnering fair reviews and many Tony nominations, closed shortly.
While Ebb's death was a major blow to Kander, he persevered and opened Curtains, a musical they had been working on together with the assistance of Rupert Holmes. Curtains was warmly received and is still running on Broadway.