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Fred Ebb

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Biography

Lyricist Fred Ebb teamed with composer John Kander to forge one of the longest-running and most successful, creative partnerships in Broadway history, their bold, brassy style giving rise to a series of enormously popular and provocative musicals, including Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Born April 8, 1928, in New York, NY, Ebb began his career writing for nightclub acts and revues, also earning notoriety for his work on the television satire That Was the Week That Was; his first stage production, 1962's Morning Sun, closed after just eight performances. Later that year, Ebb met Kander, with whom he soon collaborated on the songs "My Coloring Book" and "I Don't Care Much," both later recorded by Barbra Streisand. The duo's first stage musical, Golden Gate, went unrealized, but it did convince producer Harold Prince to hire them for his Flora, the Red Menace, a satire of bohemian culture and radical politics that also featured Liza Minnelli in her Tony Award-winning Broadway debut. Kander and Ebb's next collaboration continued in the political vein of Flora, but with much more serious overtones: 1966's Cabaret, a brilliant examination of fascism in pre-war Berlin, rocketed the duo to massive critical and commercial success, winning seven Tony awards (including Best Musical) on its way to a run of 1,166 performances and an Oscar-winning film adaptation. Kander and Ebb resurfaced in 1968 with two new musicals, The Happy Time and Zorba, followed three years later by 70, Girls, 70; in 1972, they also composed a number of songs for Minnelli's Emmy winning television special Liza With a Z. After contributing material to Streisand's 1975 film Funny Girl, later that same year Kander and Ebb launched Chicago, which was largely overlooked during its original run, but was revived to massive success two decades later. In 1977, they scored Martin Scorsese's film musical New York, New York; the title song later became a signature hit for Frank Sinatra, as well as the Big Apple's unofficial theme; also that year, the duo launched The Act on Broadway and both projects starred Minnelli. After a four-year absence from the stage, Kander and Ebb returned with 1981's Woman of the Year, a vehicle for Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall that earned four Tonys; three years later, the duo debuted The Rink, but were otherwise largely silent for the remainder of the decade. Their 1991 induction into the New York Theatre Hall of Fame coincided with the premiere of And the World Goes 'Round, an off-Broadway tribute revue featuring dozens of their songs. 1993's Kiss of the Spider Woman returned Kander and Ebb to their past prominence, netting Best Musical honors from the New York Drama Critics as well as a handful of Tony awards, including Best Actress accolades for star Chita Rivera. Steel Pier followed in 1997 and later that same year, Kander and Ebb were announced as recipients of the 21st annual Kennedy Center Honors. After suffering a heart attack, Fred Ebb passed away at his home on September 11, 2004. ~ Jason Ankeny

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