What If Broadway Musicals Had Been Written By Jews?

I was tickled to read in a recent Forward review of Mark Cohen's new book, Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman, that the Jewish comedian offered a counterfactual explanation for the origin of his Jewish parodies of Broadway musical songs (collected under the title "Goldeneh Moments from Broadway"):

Sherman asked: “What would have happened, how would it have been, if all of the great Broadway hits of the great Broadway shows had been written by Jewish people?”

Sherman's counterfactual observation was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, of course.  But it made the point, perhaps less well-known at the time than today, that Broadway musicals were, in large part, the product of American Jewish songwriters.  

On the face of it, a "what if?" question is meant to ask us to imagine an alternate reality.  But since Sherman's question alludes to an existing reality, it deliberately undermines itself by asking us to imagine what already exists.  The rhetorical function of the question is thus -- presumably -- get people at the time to recognize something that was not readily admitted.  Or to share an in-joke with the cognoscenti who already know the truth.

Click here to hear Sherman's song parody "76 Sol Cohens" (a take-off of "76 Trombones," from The Music Man).


Mark Cohen said…
I'm sorry I did not see this until now. You might be interested in the following,

News: Allan Sherman's lost song parodies surface after 50 years

"There Is Nothing Like A Lox: The Lost Song Parodies of Allan Sherman" features the Jewish parodies of hits from the Broadway musical that Allan Sherman sang for Harpo Marx, Jack Benny and others at Harpo's home in Los Angeles in 1961 and that in 1962 landed him a contract with Warner Brothers Records.

Now, more than 50 years after they were recorded in concert and in the living rooms of friends, these songs will finally be released on February 18.

Virtually all of the songs on the new CD comprise what Sherman called "The Goldeneh Moments From Broadway." Sherman explained, "It occurred to me, what if all of the great hit songs from all of the great Broadway shows had actually been written by Jewish people---which they were."

Sherman's insight led him to comically reclaim the American musical as a Jewish creation through parodies that judaized the material. "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" became "There Is Nothing Like A Lox," "Camelot" became "Ollawood" and "When You Walk Through A Storm" became "When You Walk Through the Bronx."

The lost parodies came to light through the research of Sherman biographer Mark Cohen, who with the cooperation of the Sherman Estate and friends of Sherman located the rare recordings. "There Is Nothing Like A Lox" includes liner notes by Cohen.