Joseph “Joe” Masteroff was a renowned playwright of the 1960s. His long-lasting works made a splash in the theatrical community and are still produced today.
Joe Masteroff was born in Philadelphia to parents Louis and Rose Masteroff. He attended Philadelphia public schooling with his sister, Vera. From there, he progressed to Temple University where he graduated with a degree in Journalism in 1940. After college, he decided to join the army; he enlisted on December 8, 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and served for three years in England, mostly doing clerical work.
Once returned from war, he studied playwriting with the American Theatre Wing from 1949 to 1951, an opportunity he received due to his status as a veteran. His first successful work was a comedy called The Warm Peninsula which centered around two women who fall for gigolos on their vacation to Florida. It toured around the country, and then transferred to Broadway in 1959 where it ran for 86 performances. His next work was the book for the beloved musical comedy, She Loves Me, which he worked on with Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, composer and lyricist respectively. Originally eclipsed by the premiere of Hello Dolly!, She Loves Me has since been successfully revived several times on Broadway to great success.
Masteroff, however, is best known for his work on the groundbreaking musical Cabaret, which premiered on Broadway three years later, in 1966. Painting a provocative picture of Germany on the cusp of World War II, Cabaret broke boundaries with its revolutionary depictions of sexuality and relationships in the final days of the Weimar republic. Cabaret was a smash hit, running for 1,165 performances and winning eight Tony awards, including Best Musical. It has since been revived three times on Broadway; its 1998 revival surpassed the length of the original run with 2,377 performances and garnered ten Tony nominations, making Cabaret the third-longest running revival in Broadway history (as of this writing in October 2018). Cabaret has also toured around the U.S. and U.K. and has been produced three times on London’s West End and in many countries internationally.
In his years as an active writer, he also penned the libretto for musicals like 70, Girls, 70 (1971), Six Wives (Off-Broadway, 1992), and Paramour (Old Globe Theatre, 1998), as well as the libretto for an operetta of Desire Under the Elms. He passed away at the age of 98, leaving behind a rich theatrical legacy.