Today in KC’s Music History: “Flora the Red Menace” Opens on Broadway

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Although it’s mostly forgotten today, the debut of Flora the Red Menace on May 11, 1965, marked the debut of one of Broadway’s most enduring composing teams.

This show was the first musical between composer Kansas Citian John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who subsequently wrote such shows as Cabaret, Chicago, Woman of the Year and Kiss of the Spider Woman.

John Kander (at piano) and lyricist Fred Ebb.

Flora was not a success, receiving mostly negative reviews and closing after 87 performances. However, in addition to being Kander and Ebb’s first Broadway production, the show is notable for being Liza Minnelli’s Broadway debut. Minnelli’s performance earned her a Tony Award, and at age 19, she was the youngest person at that time to win a Tony.

Kander and Ebb’s next show, Cabaret, was an unqualified success. It ran for 1,165 performances and won eight Tony Awards, including Best Composer and Lyricist.

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