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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, Erin McCarthy (Executive Editor of MentalFloss.com) shares some interesting facts about musicals!
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I'm Erin McCarthy, welcome to the salon, this is Mental Floss video, and did you know that "Mamma Mia!" wasn't the first show to bring ABBA's tunes to the theater world? Abracadabra was based on the songs of ABBA, starred Elaine Paige, and was brought to life by the starting team behind Les Mis. And that's just the first of many facts about musicals that I'm going to share with you today.

[Mental Floss List Show intro]

Thanks to versions by Queen, Bette Midler, Ellen Griswald, and Homer Simpson, you're probably familiar with the classic Broadway song "Big Spender." Even Jay-Z sampled it in his 2007 single Rockafeller billionaires. In fact, people probably know the song and not the musical, "Sweet Charity," a 1996 collaboration between Neil Simon and Bob Fossey.

Speaking of the great choreographer, Bob Fossey won his first Tony, one of nine, for "The Pajama Game," the first show he fully choreographed.

Winning a Tony award is obviously a pretty big deal, but when Dick Van Dyke won his first actor award in 1961 for his role as Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, he didn't even know. Van Dyke was unable to attend the ceremony and the awards weren't televised at the time. He was notified via telegram, but it somehow got stuck under the doormat. His maid discovered the good news three days later.

Barbra Streisand might be practically synonymous with "Funny Girl" heroin Fanny Bryce now, but she didn't make a great first impression on the day of her audition. Even composer Jule Stein, who wanted to cast her, said Streisand looked awful in her thrift shop clothes, and the producer's wife, who was the daughter of the real Fanny Bryce, stared at Streisand with her quote-unquote "obvious distaste" on her face. Babs got the part anyway.

Inspiration for Broadway shows can come from many places. For Vinton Freedley, it came when he was working on a boat in the Pacific trying to evade creditors after the utter failure of his 1933 musical "Pardon My English". Luckily, the results, "Anything Goes", did much better.

Andrew Lloyd Weber's inspiration for Cats came from a collection of T.S. Eliot poems called Old Possum's book of Practical Cats. Elaine Paige originated the role of former glamour cat Grisabella, who sings Memory, the show's most famous song, but she wasn't the first Grisabella. That would be Dame Judi Dench, who had to bow out after she injured her Achilles tendon during rehearsals, a few days before previews were to start.

Sometimes inspiration works the other way around. After writing for Evita, lyricist Tim Rice was so taken by Argentinian president Eva Peron that he named his daughter after her.

Without Sesame Street, Avenue Q may not have existed. Rick Lyon, a cast member and puppeteer who designed all of the original puppets was once a semi-regular on the classic kid's show.

Want to give your musical a little extra credibility? Hire the most trusted man in America. That's what producers did when they tapped former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite to record some lines as the offstage narrator for the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Forget "break a leg," apparently the real bad luck Broadway curse is when the president comes to watch. The night Gerald Ford took in a performance of a chorus line, the lighting board went crazy. Thankfully, the crew managed to patch it with scotch tape, paperclips, and chewing gum.

It's not often that the NFL crosses paths with musicals, but 12 years after winning Superbowl III with the New York Jets, former NFL quarterback Joe Namath played the main character in a 1981 production of Damn Yankees at the Jones Beach Theater in New York.

Starting with Micheal Crawford, every Broadway phantom in Phantom of the Opera has sat in the same makeup chair. The Phantom's makeup takes two hours to put on and 30 minutes to remove.

While playing Wendela Broadway's Spring Awakening, future Glee star Lea Michele had to remove the top part of her dress at every show... unless her dad was in the audience. Her contract specified that she could keep her dress on when he attended.

According to Steven Sondheim, Into the Woods features the only song he's ever written that doesn't contain a rhyme. Jack sings "I guess this is goodbye" to his friend, a cow named Milky White, that he has just sold for five magical beans. Many have said that Sonheim's Into the Woods was the first Broadway show to feature rap, but he likes to point to a much earlier instance, Rock Island, the opening song from the Music Man.

The next time you see a performance of Wicked, listen closely to Unlimited, Elphaba's theme. The first seven notes of the song come from Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the original Wizard of Oz.

West Side Story is full of slang like "cut the frabajaba," "gassin' " "crabin' " and "cracko-jacko," but it was all totally made up by Arthur Lawrence who wrote the musical's book.

The first reviews of Les Miserables were pretty mixed. After the first night, the cast wondered if they should start looking for new jobs, but they shouldn't have worried. Since then, Les Mis has been seen by more than 60 million people and is currently the fifth longest-running Broadway show in history.

Les Mis was inspired by another show about singing orphans: Oliver! Lyricist Alain Baubil says that he immediately thought of the Victor Hugo novel while attending a London revival of Oliver, and could instantly see Jean Valjean, Javert, Cosette, Marius, and Eponine singing, laughing, and crying onstage.

The truth behind The Sound of Music is much less exciting than the event of the musical. Instead of escaping the Nazis by crossing the alps on foot, the real Von Trapp family merely sneaked across a railroad track behind their villa and boarded a train to Italy.

When Spamalot opened in 2004, Hormel foods gave the first 100 ticket buyers cans of a limited edition spam flavor know as golden honeygrail.

This musical was originally known as "Away We Go" until the cast discovered that the audience went absolutely wild for one particular song: Oklahoma.

In A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, cast member and stage veteran Jefferson Mays had to play eight separate characters, which required several lightning-fast costume and wig changes, one full wardrobe transformation is timed to take 21 seconds.

On Broadway, they say that the show must go on, but we're on YouTube, so this one doesn't have to. That does it for another episode, made with the help of all of these lovely people. Thanks for joining us, I'm Erin McCarthy, see you later.

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