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Ira Gershwin

92Y Lyrics & Lyricists Series: E.Y. “Yip” Harburg: Follow the Fellow Who Follows a Dream

January 29, 2020

The 92nd St. Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists, one of New York’s leading propagators of the Great American Songbook, featured the witty and sardonic songs of E.Y. “Yip” Harburg in its most recent edition: "E.Y. 'Yip' Harburg:  Follow the Fellow Who Follows a Dream." Harburg, famous for writing the lyrics for "The Wizard of Oz" and "Finian’s Rainbow," wrote over 600 songs with many collaborators. The show gracefully explored his oeuvre and his life using the extraordinary talents of five fine singers and a superb band led by Paul Masse who supplied the often surprising orchestrations. They were helped by vivid projections by Dan Scully that showed New York City street scenes, theater marquees, historic programs and posters as well as photos of a genial looking Harburg who tried all his life to defy all the prejudices and inequities of his time and replace them with his complex and colorful lyrics that featured witty rhymes and references. [more]

Let ‘Em Eat Cake

November 29, 2019

Having had a success with Of Thee I Sing in 2017, MasterVoices had chosen to stage the sequel with an equally starry cast made up of most of the singers from the previous show in the same roles. With a chorus of 125 voices in this most choral of musicals and nine stars, "Let ’Em Eat Cake" was gloriously sung. The orchestra of St. Luke’s under the baton of artistic director Ted Sperling gave the complex score a vigorous reading, suggesting that it is more than just a musical. While the story is quite silly (the White House gets painted blue, among other things), it is also quite dark predicting a fascist takeover of the American presidency - which may explain its quick failure in its own time. Topical in 1933, many of the topics and issues are currently in the headlines again as Washington deals with an imperial White House. The musical also offered a great many unfamiliar Gershwin songs aside from its one hit “Mine,” and familiar and unfamiliar reprises from "Of Thee I Sing" like “Wintergreen for President.” [more]

Lady in the Dark

May 9, 2019

MasterVoices performed a beautifully sung and played rendition of the legendary 1941 musical "Lady in The Dark" as part of New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season for three sold-out performances. Conducted and directed by MasterVoices’ artistic director Ted Sperling and starring Tony Award winner Victoria Clark as heroine Liza Elliott, the production offered a world premiere of a new adaptation of the Moss Hart book by Christopher Hart (the author’s son) and Kim Kowalke, and the complete critical edition of the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin score. While the musical portions were excellent, this concert version only made clear the strengths and weaknesses of this rarely revived musical play. [more]

Of Thee I Sing (MasterVoices)

November 10, 2017

Leave it to George S. Kaufman and collaborator Morrie Ryskind (the Marx Brothers’ "The Cocoanuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" as well as the Gershwins’ "Strike Up the Band"), lyricist Ira and composer George to come up with the first all satirical political musical and be prophetic as well. Led by Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham, Denée Benton, Kevin Chamberlin, Brad Oscar and Tony winner Chuck Cooper, this concert adaptation proves that there is still life in the 86-year-old musical. [more]

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage

February 15, 2017

One of the remarkable things about the theater songs of Kurt Weill is that like the later songs of Stephen Sondheim they are all really little one act plays which give the performers a great deal of latitude in how to perform them. As sung by Karl Josef Com, Rachel de Benedet, Michael Halling and Meghan Picerno and as narrated by Brian Charles Rooney, Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill is an extraordinary musical voyage through some of the greatest theater songs of all time written by among the best talents of the 20th century. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Get Happy: Harold Arlen’s Early Years”

February 4, 2017

The show began with Arlen’s first hit, “Get Happy,” 1930, and ended with his 1939 score for the MGM film, "The Wizard of Oz." The first half of the evening was devoted to Arlen’s stand-alone popular tunes, his songs written for the Cotton Club Revues (1932-1934), and musical numbers for early sound movies. Blackhurst recounted how Arlen (born Hyman Arluck of Buffalo, New York), was a child prodigy singing in his father’s choir when he was seven, forming his own bands in his late teens, and occasionally appearing as a vocalist with them on records in his twenties. [more]

Funny Face

October 24, 2016

Aside from the syncopated, bouncy score, the single best element is the sensational choreography by director Colgan whose dances also impressed in his revival of Oh, Kay! last year. While the cast has obviously been chosen for their dancing skills than their voices, there are some stand-outs in the production. As the rebellious Frankie (the original Adele Astaire role), Jessica Ernest in a platinum blonde wig is an irresistible bundle of energy. Doing a spot-on imitation of early Marilyn Monroe she steals every scene she is in and does a mean Charleston. Whitney Winfield as her level-headed sister June in love with their guardian gives memorable renditions of “How Long Has This Been Going On” and “Shall We Dance.” Caitlin Wilayto is an extremely fine comedienne as the ditzy sister Dora. [more]

The New York Pops: Sophisticated Ladies

November 19, 2015

In this centennial of the birth of jazz great Billie Holiday, The New York Pops November concert was devoted to Harlem Renaissance ladies like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington as well as Holiday. Titled "Sophisticated Ladies," the evening was graced by three dynamic guest artists, Montego Glover, Capathia Jenkins and Sy Smith, who have a tremendous affinity with this music, along with music director and conductor Steven Reineke who narrated the story of this spirited and electrifying music. Beginning with Sam Shoup’s orchestral arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and ending in a rousing encore of “Get Happy,” performed by all the artists, the evening brought the audience to its feet. [more]

Pardon My English

April 10, 2015

Ironically, the only script that has survived is the original one by Hebert Fields (Annie Get Your Gun) and Morrie Ryskind (Pulitzer Prize for Of Thee I Sing). Musicals Tonight! is giving this pleasing confection its second outing since New York City Center Encores! reclaimed it in 2004 with a delightful revival marked by a top-notch cast of comedians. This rarely heard Gershwin score (which premiered “The Lorelei,” Isn’t a Pity,” and “My Cousin in Milwaukee”) is filled with musical riches, both famous and forgotten including two witty songs cut out of town, “Freud and Jung and Adler” and “He’s Oversexed.” [more]

Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1916-1940

February 28, 2015

Director Mindy Cooper’s very well executed transitions between the show’s 27 numbers, the personable Scott Siegel’s erudite remarks, and the variety of gifted performers who participated made "Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1916-1940" a brisk and very enjoyable event. [more]

Lady, Be Good!

February 6, 2015

One of the chief pleasures here is the first appearance in more than 30 years by the legendary Tommy Tune in a New York City musical. Since his Tony Award-winning leading role in the Broadway Gershwin revisal, "My One and Only" in 1983, he’s directed, choreographed, made special appearances, toured in musicals and periodically performs a nightclub act. He plays an entertainer at the garden party and at the hotel. In a three-piece red neon suit, he sings and taps “Fascinating Rhythm” solo and then with the ensemble. In the second act, he’s in a blue neon suit and a straw boater with a blue bird on top to sing and tap “Little Jazz Bird.” After leaving the stage, he pops out from the wings, doffs the hat, revealing a gold star inside. It’s symbolic as he embodies the old time, unique star quality Broadway is known for. [more]

Richard Holbrook: The Untapped Fred Astaire Revisited

October 24, 2014

The debonair Holbrook sang his way down memory lane with his enchanting voice and interesting stories about Astaire that he shared in-between songs, many showing a side to the man that is relatively unknown. This is one of the aspects of the show that makes it intriguing and a must-see for those who appreciate the talents of this widely respected artist.  

Most remember Fred Astaire for his singing and dancing, and for his movie roles, but there was much more to the man. [more]