1. Home
  2. /
  3. Recommendations
  4. /
  5. For the Fans

Best Kander and Ebb Musicals List: A Complete History

Published on: Jan 26, 2024
By: Natalie Gasper
Share Article

Who Are John Kander and Fred Ebb?

John Kander is an American composer born in 1927. His forty-year musical partnership with Fred Ebb resulted in at least sixteen Broadway shows, including Flora the Red Menace (1965) and Chicago (1975). In addition to Broadway, composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb supplied songs for fourteen television specials and films. Independently, Kander also scored films such as Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984). Kander met Fred Ebb in the early 1960s, thanks to music publisher Tommy Valando. Their first hit collaboration, the song “My Coloring Book,” was originally sung by Sandy Stewart and nominated for a Grammy. It was later recorded by Barbra Streisand and more recently by Kristin Chenoweth. Kander and Ebb were awarded the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in musical theater in 2000. At 96, Kander is still going strong with his latest musical New York, New York.

Fred Ebb is an American lyricist born in 1933. His partnership with John Kander resulted in countless awards and nominations for their work, including four Golden Globe nominations and dozens of Tony Award nominations and wins. Their highly successful plays Cabaret and Chicago were adapted into films, for which Chicago won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2002. Ebb got his start as a songwriter, authoring hits like the song “I Never Loved Him Anyhow” for Carmen McRae and the song “Heartbroken” for Judy Garland. His first theatrical collaboration with John Kander, Golden Gate, never hit the stage but  showed enough promise for producer Harold Prince to hire the duo for Flora the Red Menace, starring Liza Minnelli. “Maybe This Time,” a song originally written for Golden Gate, later became famous when it was sung by Minnelli in the film adaptation of Cabaret.  Ebb passed away suddenly in 2004 while working on the musical Curtains.

Together John Kander and Fred Ebb won many awards, including:

Tony Awards

  • Cabaret (Best Musical, Best Original Score)

  • Kiss of the Spider Woman (Best Musical, Best Original Score)

  • Woman of the Year (Best Original Score)

Emmy Awards

  • “Liza with a Z” (1973, Outstanding Variety Series)

Grammy Awards

Kander and Ebb Broadway Musicals

Flora the Red Menace musical


Flora, The Red Menace gave Liza Minnelli her Broadway debut. She went on to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical at 19. While most of the songs aren’t well known, this musical made “Sing Happy” and “A Quiet Thing” quite popular. Set during the Great Depression in the 1930s, this musical follows aspiring fashion designer Flora as she falls in love with the artist and communist Henry, who persuades her to join the party.Flora, The Red Menace debuted in 1965 at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) and ran for 87 performances.

CABARET (1966)

Cabaret was based on the play I Am a Camera (1951), which was based on the Christopher Isherwood novel Goodbye to Berlin (1939). This musical is set in Berlin in 1929-1930 as the Jazz Age was ending and Nazis were rising to power. This show was a box office hit, running for 1,166 performances. Renowned Broadway producer Harold Prince wanted a powerful and evocative score, which Kander and Ebb delivered. Cabaret was adapted into a film in 1972, directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. A revival starring Eddie Redmayne is coming to Broadway in 2024.

The Happy Time musical


Gower Champion directed and choreographed The Happy Time, based on a play of the same name. It opened at The Broadway Theatre in early 1968 and had a limited run of only 286 shows over nine months. Robert Goulet starred as world traveling photographer Jacques Bonnard, returning to his family after five years.

Zorba musical

ZORBA (1968)

Hal Prince directed Zorba, adapted from the 1946 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis Zorba the Greek. This musical, which premiered in 1968, is set in Crete and follows Nikos and his free-spirited friend Zorba. Zorba got a Broadway revival in 1983, featuring several new musical numbers, including the song “Woman.” Anthony Quin and Lila Kedrova, who starred in the 1964 film of the same name, also starred in this revival. For her performances, Kedrova won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.

70, GIRLS, 70 (1971)

70, Girls, 70, based on the play Breath of Spring by Peter Coke, follows a group of elderly thieves who like to steal fur coats in New York City. This musical opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in 1971 and had a run of 35 performances. Several veteran actors were involved, including David Burns, who collapsed from a heart attack on stage and later died. He was replaced by Hans Conried, who is perhaps best known for voicing the characters of George Darling and Captain Hook in the Disney animated feature Peter Pan


CHICAGO (1975)

The original Broadway production of Chicago was directed by Bob Fosse and starred Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera as Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly respectively. The 1996 revival is still running today, holding the record for the longest-running musical revival in Broadway history. The Oscar-winning film adaptation, directed by Rob Marshall, starred Renee Zellweger as Roxie Hart and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly. 

The Act

THE ACT (1978)

The Act starred Liza Minnelli, who won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her role as Michelle Craig, a film star trying to revive her career with a nightclub act in Las Vegas. Martin Scorsese directed this musical, which also starred Barry Nelson and Mark Goddard. The Act had the highest advance sales in Broadway history at the time, reaching $2 million, though it did not ultimately recoup.

Woman of the Year


Woman of the Year, starring Lauren Bacall and Harry Guardino, opened in New York at the Palace Theatre in 1981. This musical follows TV personality Tess Harding (Bacall) and cartoonist Sam Craig (Guardino) as they merge their marriage and careers. Kander and Ebb won a Tony Award for Best Original Score. The New York Times said, “Mr. Kander’s accompanying music is sprightly indeed. From the moment we hear the cheering overture…it’s clear that the score is flush with melodic ballads and show-biz brio...[Fred Ebb’s lyrics] ascend to witty heights in the prolific comedy turns.”

Kander and Ebb's The Rink

THE RINK (1984)

The Rink marked the tenth collaboration of Kander and Ebb and ran for 204 performances. Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera starred in this 1984 production about the owner of a roller skating rink selling her property to real estate developers. Despite the box-office draw of its stars, the show received mostly negative reviews. Stockard Channing replaced Minnelli in July of 1984.


The original Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman was directed by Harold Prince with book by Terrence McNally, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Kiss of the Spider Woman, based on the book El Beso de la Mujer by Manuel Puig, had an impressive run of 904 performances and won a Tony Award in 1993 for Best Musical. It was recently announced that Jennifer Lopez is starring in an upcoming movie musical adaptation.

Steel Pier musical


Scott Ellis directed Steel Pier, with music by Kander and Ebb from David Thompson’s original book. With choreography by Susan Stroman and starring Karen Ziemba, Daniel McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth in her Broadway debut, this production ran for 76 performances in 1997. This musical received three Tony Award nominations (Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical), but lost all three to Titanic. Variety said, “By turns dark and cheerfully old-fashioned, ‘Steel Pier’ is set in an Atlantic City ballroom of 1933. The Depression-era craze of marathon dancing is in full swing, and an assortment of hopefuls have come together at the Steel Pier dance hall to compete for a $2,000 prize and a shot at showbiz fame…[this musical] has the stamina and heart to win any marathon.”


David Hyde Pierce won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical in the murder mystery musical Curtains. Both the original book writer Peter Stone and lyricist Fred Ebb died during the musical’s development, but despite these setbacks, Rupert Holmes was hired to rewrite the book and the finished show premiered in Los Angeles in 2006 before moving to Broadway in 2007, where it ran for 511 performances.

The Scottsboro Boys


The Broadway musical theatre production of Scottsboro Boys was directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman with a book by David Thompson. It initially debuted Off-Broadway, then went on to receive 12 Tony nominations as a Broadway musical. When Ebb died in 2004, the project was put on hold until 2008. Kander finished the lyrics for this production on his own. The Hollywood Reporter said, “the show spins a chilling burlesque out of the true story of nine black teenagers whose lives were shattered after their 1931 conviction for the falsified rape of two white Alabama [women]...this bold musical keeps you tapping your feet while it socks you with an emotional punch to the gut. That’s a tough combo for mainstream commercial acceptance, but it makes for arresting theater.”

The Visit starring Chita Rivera and Roger Rees

THE VISIT (2015)

The Visit, starring Chita Rivera as Claire Zachanassian, is a musical about a rich woman who offers her bankrupt town a fresh start, in exchange for the murder of the man who abandoned her. The production initially opened in Chicago in 2001 but failed to catch viewers from New York and California who were hesitant to fly. A one-act version of The Visit eventually made it to Broadway in 2015, starring Rivera. The Guardian said, “[the musical] has a discreetly lush score by John Kander and skillful lyrics by Fred Ebb….Rivera, a Broadway grande dame…has rarely seemed grander or more dame-ish.”


NEW YORK, NEW YORK (with additional lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda) (2023)

Frank Sinatra recorded the song “New York, New York” for the Martin Scorsese film of the same name starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro; that film provided the loose inspiration for the musical. New York, New York had new Kander music and Ebb lyrics, with additional lyrics by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Lin Manuel Miranda, and book by David Thompson and Sharon Washington. 

Kander and Ebb Films, Television, Books, and Tributes

Liza with a Z

Liza with a “Z” (1972)

Liza with a “Z,” starring Liza Minnelli, was one of the first concerts filmed for television and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Series. This production was filmed at the Lyceum Theatre in New York after rehearsing for just eight weeks. The song “Ring Them Bells” came from this production.

Funny Lady Film

Funny Lady (1975)

A sequel to the 1968 film Funny Girl, Barbra Streisand starred in this musical dramedy sequel to Funny Girl. This film featured fifteen songs, with most being new tracks created by Kander and Ebb. Their song, “How Lucky Can You Get,” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Kander and Ebb by James Leve

Kander and Ebb by James Leve (2009)

Want to know more about this sensational collaboration? Check out Kander and Ebb by James Leve. This book, the first study of Kander and Ebb, examines their artistic accomplishments as individuals and as a team. Drawing on personal papers and on numerous interviews, James Leve analyzes the unique nature of this collaboration. Leve discusses their contribution to the concept musical; he examines some of their most popular works including Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman; and he reassesses their “flops” as well as their incomplete and abandoned projects. Filled with fascinating information, the book is a resource for students of musical theater and lovers of Kander and Ebb’s songs and shows.

The World Goes Round at Olney Arts Center

The World Goes ‘Round (2023)

The Olney Theatre Center, in collaboration with ArtsCentric and Everyman Theatre, created a 36-song tribute honoring the wonderful musical prowess of Kander and Ebb. Their best musical numbers were on wonderful display, performed by Natascia Diaz, Kevin S. McAllister, and Harris Milgrim, to name a few.

Musicals Currently on Broadway

Want to know what’s playing on Broadway right now? Check out our article on Top Broadway Shows to find what shows are playing in New York today!

Natalie Gasper

Contributing Writer

Natalie Gasper is freelance writer and editor who loves all creative pursuits. When she’s not writing articles, fantasy books, or poetry, you can probably find her auditioning for a play or creating beautiful theater sets. You can connect with her on Twitter and Medium @NatalieGasper.

Education: B.A. in Creative Writing, University of Central Florida
Knowledge: Theater, Literary


Jan 26, 2024

Share Story

We may receive commissions on purchases you make through links published on our website. Click here to review our disclosures page for more information.