Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Broadway Songs Teach A Wall Street Seminar

The crisis on Wall Street has a lot of people singing the blues. But you can also take your cues, both musical and financial, from Broadway.

Back in the 1960s, if you were putting on a Broadway musical, you wanted it to appeal to a guy called the "tired businessman." Before tourists took over the Great White Way, he was the target audience — rich, bored and sitting in an office at showtime right near the theater district.

But he was the tired businessman because he'd just spent all day at work. So rather than put him to sleep with love songs, producers pushed chorus girls doing high kicks: vaudeville-style comedy.

This new style was invigorating enough to keep the shows in the black for more than a year, but it also proved the tired businessman's last hurrah. Within just a few seasons, producers were courting tourists more than New Yorkers, and Broadway had removed from its portfolio — more or less permanently — its little seminar on Wall Street.

These four songs are particularly illustrative of the kind of vaudeville mixed with corporate-speak that the businessman favored.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Corrected: September 23, 2008 at 12:01 PM MDT
In describing the plot of "The Rothschilds," the story referred to "Germany's Prince Metternich." Prince Metternich was an Austrian statesman and diplomat; Germany wasn't a nation until 1871.
Bob Mondello
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.