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Bob Merrill

Bob Merrill

Bob Merrill had been a hit songwriter writing such classics as “How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?” and “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake” long before he came to Broadway. He split his time between Hollywood and New York. Nominated eight times for a Tony®, once for a Golden Globe® and once for an Oscar®, Merrill never actually won, but his music for stage and screens both large and small counts among the most memorable of the time.

Merrill’s biggest success on Broadway would come when he teamed up as lyricist with Jule Styne in the 1964 musical adaptation of Funny Girl, which starred Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice and won her not only a Tony® nomination in her first starring role, it earned her a Special Tony Award® in 1970. Merrill and Styne joined together in 1967 to write additional material for the film version of the musical.

Merrill first hit Broadway in 1957 with New Girl in Town, an adaptation of a Eugene O’Neill play that starred Gwen Verdon and Thelma Ritter, both of whom won the Tony® that year for Best Actress in a Musical. He drew upon Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! in his next musical, Take Me Along, which earned Jackie Gleason a 1960 Tony® for Best Actor in a Musical and a Tony® nomination for the legendary Lehman Engel, who was the music director for the show.

In 1961, he wrote both the words and music for Carnival!, a musical that featured puppets and won Anna Maria Alberghetti the 1962 Tony® for Best Actress in a musical. In the next two productions featuring Merrill as both lyricist and composer, the shows did not fare so well. His 1966 adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s closed after four previews, and Henry, Sweet Henry (1967) ran for only eighty performances.

Merrill worked with Jule Styne once more in 1972 to produce Sugar, a musical adapted from the Billy Wilder film, Some Like It Hot. Robert Morse won a Drama Desk Award for his outstanding performance in the role of Jerry and Elaine Joyce won a Theatre World award for her performance as Sugar. His last contribution to the Broadway came in 1993 as a contributing lyricist to the ill-fated musical, The Red Shoes.

Photo courtesy of Photofest