Hear the iconic music of Lifetime Achivement honoree John Kander in two Broadway shows
The composer received the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2023, a year when he's represented on stage with two musicals: Chicago and New York, New York.
In 2023, at 96 years old, Broadway composer John Kander received the annual Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. Since making his Broadway writing debut in 1962 with A Family Affair, he's produced 12 Tony-nominated scores (three of which have won) across 60+ years, many with his late writing partner, Fred Ebb.
“I am grateful to music, which has invaded me early on from the time I was a baby, and who has stayed my friend through my entire life and has promised to stick with me till the end,” Kander said in his acceptance speech. Fellow composer Lin-Manuel Miranda presented him with the trophy along with Joel Grey, the other 2023 Lifetime Achievement honoree (whose best-known role remains the Emcee in Kander and Ebb's Cabaret).
Though Kander’s indelible impact on musical theatre has been clear for years, this is a particularly special year to formally honor the composer. For one, Chicago, one of his most famous musicals, became the longest-running show currently on Broadway after The Phantom of the Opera closed. His and Ebb's portrait of 1920s celebrity criminals in the title city shows no signs of slowing more than 25 years since the revival’s 1996 opening (its original premiere was from 1975-77). Countless audiences still flock to the Ambassador Theatre to hear songs like "Razzle Dazzle" and "Cell Block Tango."
The 96-year-old Kander doesn't show any signs of stopping, either. Five blocks away from Chicago, he premiered a new musical on Broadway in 2023. That would be New York, New York, a loose adaptation of the 1977 Scorsese film about artists seeking love and success in 1946 Manhattan.
Kander and Ebb wrote that movie’s iconic title track. (Start spreading the news!) All three other songs they wrote for the film made it into the stage version, too, alongside cut tunes from Kander and Ebb's other musicals and entirely new compositions by Kander and Miranda.
New York, New York alone shows the breadth of Kander's range, and it acts as a kind of musical retrospective of his career. The jazzy, brassy sound he and Ebb are best known for lives alongside songs reminiscent of Broadway's Golden Age and even Latin-infused tunes (the Kander/Miranda collabs). Our guide to New York, New York's songs describes the lot as "a musical melting pot" as diverse as the city itself.
But if you want a full 2.5 hours of Kander and Ebb's signature sound, see Chicago, where it's on dark and sultry display. (You can check out a guide to Chicago's songs, too.) Its sound has echoes of Cabaret and Kiss of the Spider Woman, two of Kander and Ebb's most famous other musicals.
So if you want to hear the Lifetime Achievement honoree's work live, there are plenty of opportunities. Whether you travel to New York, New York or Chicago, you'll see why Kander is king of the hill and top of the heap.
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Photo credit: John Kander accepts the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement during The 76th Annual Tony Awards. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
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