There Is Business Like Show Business


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Some of the most lavish and expensive musicals ever staged were in praise of photocopiers, kitchen appliances, insurance salesmen and even tractors They were made in the 50s, 60s and later by companies to motivate their staff.

The people who wrote them were huge Broadway names including Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock the men who gave us Fiddler on the Roof. They were private performances staged at sales conventions and the music was never made available to the public. They were a hidden part of the business world and the only reason we now know about them is that some shows were recorded as souvenirs for the employees - and these have been discovered by a couple of enthusiastic record collectors, Steve Young and Jonathan Ward. They tell Will Young about their favourite shows - Detroit Diesel's "Diesel Dazzle" and "A Musical Introduction to 1958 - The Shape of Tomorrow" from Westinghouse Appliances.

There were also industrial shows in the UK. We speak to choreographer and director Gillian Lynne who produced the Lyon's Maid musical "With Lyon's Maid, You're Laughing!" in 1973. And Herb Kanzell who, following his triumph with The Westinghouse Appliances show of 1958 wrote musical shows for British Rail, Oxo and British Airways.

Music played in the programme:

Somewhere over the Rainbow - Judy Garland from "The Wizard of Oz" soundtrack

"Tractor Drivin' Man" by Hank Beebe and performed by Bill Shirley - who also sang "On the Street Where You Live" on the "My Fair Lady" soundtrack and provided the voice for Prince Phillip in Disney's "Sleeping Beauty". Tractor Drivin' Man was used in several Ford Tractor Shows in the 1960s.

"My Insurance Man" from the Continental Assurance Company 1968 show. Written by Arnold Midlash and Robert WeDyck. Performed by Beverly Lacek.

"Golden Harvest" from the Ford Tractor Show 1959 "Ford-i-f-y Your Future" written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock.

"Big and Beautiful" from the 1966 American Motors show "Music from AM Route 66" written by Hank Beebe and Bill Heyer, performed by Chuck Green.

"Tomorrow, Today" from "the shape of tomorrow, a musical introduction to 1958" from Westinghouse Appliances, written by Herb Kanzell and John Wyman, performed by Marilyn Ross.

"Nightmare", also from "the shape of tomorrow", written by Herb Kanzell and John Wyman performed by Martin Green.

"Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma! written by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

"Monroe Man" from the Monroe Calculator Show 1969, music written by Sonny Kippe, lyrics by Joe Lapidos & Glenn Moore, performed by Diane Findlay.

"Tele op blues" from the Lyon's Maid 1973 show, "With Lyon's Maid You're Laughing" written by Denis Norden and Malcolm Mitchell and performed by Julia Sutton.

"The Latest" from Cole National Annual Sales Meeting Show "A Fairy Tale" 1965, performed by Liz Seneff

"I Never Enjoyed my Operation More" from the Converters Inc show "The Spirit of '78". No composition credits. Cast: Carol Steffen, Renee Kalen, Alice Dodd, Lee Pelty, and Mike Arquette

"We Were There" from the Detroit Diesel 1966 show "Diesel Dazzle" written by Hank Beebe and Bill Heyer.

"The Answer" from General Electric's Silicon Division's 1973 show "Got to Investigate Silicones" written by Hank Beebe and Bill Heyer, performed by Ron Young, Paul Eichel, & Joy Garrett. Special cameo vocal appearance by lyricist Bill Heyer.

Producer: Rachel Ross

Firrst broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2012.

Will Young explores the hidden world of industrial musicals

Will Young enjoys some unlikely show tunes about tractors and bathroom fittings.