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Although FINIAN’S RAINBOW asks, “How are things in Glocca Morra,” let’s instead enquire, “How are things in Germany and South Korea?

Where Broadway musicals are concerned, David Savran assures us that things are quite well in these two very disparate countries.

Savran’s new book from Oxford University Press is called TELL IT TO THE WORLD: The American Musical Abroad. His title comes from

“Gee, Officer Krupke.” Recall that the Jet named Action exclaims, “Lemme tell it to the world!”

Bringing up WEST SIDE STORY is hardly irrelevant, for it’s cited a great deal in this 308-page work.

Julia Migenes, whom we know as the original Hodel in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and Rachel in the recording of RAGS, was Maria when the musical premiered in Berlin in 1961. At the time, critics said that it was “musically thin” and “a catastrophe of taste.”

Fifty-two years later, it was a different story for WEST SIDE STORY. After the classic entered a Berlin opera house’s repertoire in 2013, it stayed in the mix until 2019.

Savran reports that WEST SIDE STORY is among Germany’s most popular musicals. CABARET, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, HAIR and KISS ME, KATE are the other top Broadway imports. Runners-up, he says, are MAN OF LA MANCHA and HELLO, DOLLY!

TELL IT TO THE WORLD was inspired by three people that Savran had met. One was Ji Hyon (Kayla) Yuh, a student in his musical theater seminar. She wrote a paper about a production of DREAMGIRLS in Korea that was non-traditionally cast.

The Asian performers made no attempt to be black en route to “eliminating the show’s racial elements,” wrote Yuh. The souvenir program also stated that “issues of race will be excluded” AND THAT “the story behind a young singer’s journey of being a glamorous star will be emphasized for a tighter drama that will move the Korean audience.”

You may have a pro or con opinion on this, but Savran doesn’t often judge what he’s gleaned from seeing and reading about American musicals in these two countries. He simply put facts out there so that you can draw your own conclusions.

You’re sure to have opinions on how director Barrie Kosky interprets our classics.

Kosky’s 2017 reimagining of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF started with a boy who “is the sole modern-dressed figure in the musical. Wearing a green hoodie, sporting headphones, and entering on a scooter at the top of the show, the boy takes out a fiddle and begins to play.”

When Kosky tackled CANDIDE, he arranged that “during the opening scene in the Westphalian schoolhouse, a large colored map was on the back wall bearing the legend ‘Die Erde Klimazonen,’ the earth’s climate zones – most of them an alarming red, orange and yellow.”

Try making a garden grow under those circumstances.

Kosky’s also decided that “Cunegonde’s coloratura tour-de-force ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ is staged as flashy pole dance in a Paris dive in which Cunegonde is surrounded by six wriggling women dancers.”

For KISS ME, KATE, Kosky’s take on THE TAMING OF THE SHREW that’s trying out in Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore should have an ensemble of “glittering, sequined brightly cowboy outfits.”

Well, Kosky does describe himself as “a Jewish gay kangaroo.” All of the above, Savran says, fed into “Germany’s cliched but not inaccurate view of the Broadway musical as the most emblematically gay US-American performance genre.”

We don’t learn the sexual orientation of Sebastian Welker, another German director, who did a 2016 production of HAIRSPRAY in Cologne. It “incorporated a mute, glitter-clad, presumably invisible Statue of Liberty played by a male actor who shadowed the characters and even ended up in jail with them, comforting the ill-used Tracy.” Along the way, Welker made a concerted effort to mock a then-current American president.

So, German interpretations of American musicals have greatly changed over the years. At first, they were staged as replicas of the originals. In 1925, NO, NO, NANETTE was produced in Berlin to great success. The political climate that infected Germany soon thereafter meant that the country wouldn’t see American musicals until after World War II.

West Berlin got MY FAIR LADY in 1962, where it ran an impressive two-and-half years. More to the point, though, “it was a symbol,” said one reviewer, “of the city’s will to live.”

One homegrown musical, MEIN FREUND BUNBURY, even “evoked the title of MY FAIR LADY,” says Savran. It was a musical version of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST that certainly placed an emphasis on a fair lady: “Cecily,” reveals Saffran, “has the leading role, and together with Jack, her guardian, collects money for The Salvation Army,” but – to “flee her hypocritical environment” – she becomes a music hall entertainer who “moonlights as the Sunshine Girl.”

(This is not to be confused with “Sunshine Girl,” the excellent song in NEW GIRL IN TOWN.)

That MEIN FREUND BUBURY “also features a brassy title song evocative of HELLO, DOLLY!’s number-one, around-the-world hit” is one thing. That “it also has a potpourri of US-American dances that even throws in The Twist” – in a show set in “smart 1920s London society,” mind you – is quite another.

Despite this – or perhaps because of it – MEIN FREUND BUNBURY “was East Germany’s great musical success, racked up over 5,000 performances in 152 different productions, 25 in West Germany.”

Wonder if MEIN FREUND BUNBURY is as good as the 1960 off-Broadway musical version of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST?

ERNEST IN LOVE has an excellent score (and never mind that its composer Lee Pockriss was best-known for having written a song called “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini,” which – don’t laugh – reached Number One on the Billboard charts in July 1960).

South Korea had to wait a little longer than Germany to savor American musicals. Nine long years would pass after The Korean War ended in 1953 before the first American musical – PORGY AND BESS, in fact – would play the country.

Although one may express surprise that JEKYLL & HYDE was “one of the most financially successful musicals in Seoul, a Korean mounting of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR played for 18 months in front of 300,000, and, says Savran, it’s often been “linked to the growth of evangelical Christianity in South Korea.”

One of the most important producers in South Korea has branched out to raise money for shows on Broadway, too. “Byeong-seok Kim,” writes Savran, “poured $1 million into KINKY BOOTS, thus bringing back to Seoul the Tony Award for Best Musical.”

Such a happy fate didn’t meet four of Kim’s other Broadway investments: ROCKY, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and recent revivals of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and JEKYLL & HYDE. Says the mogul, “Do I care about losing money on Broadway? Not really. What matters if the American producers notice us, see our market, and understand what Asia can become. Broadway is the place of origin for musicals; once it’s on Broadway, it’s likely to spread around the world.”

And that just may mean a few more excellent books by David Savran.

Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on His new book – BRAINTEASERS FOR BROADWAY GENIUSES – is now available on Amazon and at The Drama Book Shop.