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Jeff Harnar

A Walk in the Woods with Playwright Chip Deffaa, His Deer, and the Ghost of George M. Cohan

December 5, 2022

Deffaa comments: “I've always loved Cohan's attitude--that 'can-do' spirit of his is inspiring.  He had no formal education; he learned by doing; and left a terrific legacy.  Just a remarkable man!  No one in Broadway history ever did as many different things as well as Cohan.  He wrote book, music, and lyrics for Broadway shows that he starred in, directed, choreographed, and co-produced.  He wrote or co-wrote some 50 Broadway shows, produced or co-produced some 80 Broadway shows.  At his peak, he owned or controlled seven Broadway theaters. “Cohan’s shows--fast, funny, and unusually well-plotted for their day--laid the foundation for modern musical comedy.  It was Cohan who made America--not Europe--the pace-setter for musical theater.  In an era when musicals were often little more than collected vaudeville acts, Cohan was creating well-plotted musical plays.  And critics took note that he was advancing the artform.  George Jean Nathan, a top critic, wrote that Cohan’s musicals were “as carefully plotted as the dramas of Euripides.”  By writing book, music, and lyrics, and supervising all aspects of production, Cohan was creating musicals far more cohesive than those before.  And the best younger people working in the theater, like Oscar Hammerstein and Irving Berlin, took note and built upon Cohan’s foundation.  Cohan was a major contributor to our culture.  He was the first member of his profession honored with a Congressional medal, presented to him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” [more]

Irving Berlin and Me (And a Brush with Death Along the Way)

April 5, 2022

In the past 20 years, I’ve produced a total of 34 different albums; 16 of them have dealt with Irving Berlin (1888-1989). The newest album in this ongoing Berlin series, "Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin: Love Songs and Such"--featuring such gifted artists as Betty Buckley, Karen Mason, Steve Ross, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Natalie Douglas, Jeff Harnar, Sarah Rice, Bobby Belfry, Keith Anderson, Molly Ryan, and Seth Sikes--was the hardest of all the albums to produce. And, for reasons I’ll address in a bit, it took by far the longest time to produce; life is not always easy. But for me, this is the most satisfying album of the bunch. (And as I type these words, I’m happy to note it’s just been nominated for a MAC Award, which is extra gratifying!) I know I’ve made a worthwhile contribution to Berlin’s recorded legacy. [more]

Saloons: Some Enchanted Evenings

May 14, 2016

Cabaret has always been a mixed bag. The golden age is gone. However, in today's schizo world of nightclubs, things are looking pretty good. It is a milieu unique in the entertainment industry. And, it continues to reinvent itself. The late cabaret critic Martin Schaeffer wrote in Back Stage in 1993,“There cannot be a better night of classic American music than a Bobby Short gig at The Carlyle.” He was right; especially if you're a purist of the Great American Songbook. [more]

Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1941-1965

April 4, 2015

In the course of Mr. Siegel’s erudite remarks, the work of key figures responsible for these often classic musicals recurred. Composer and lyricist Cole Porter was represented by four shows, composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II by three shows, as was composer Jule Styne. Most monumental was the achievement of legendary producer David Merrick who was responsible for bringing five of the shows to Broadway. [more]

The 30th Annual Bistro Awards

March 9, 2015

Beaming Broadway musical comedy veteran, Lee Roy Reams presented the final honor, the ASCAP Major Engagement Award to Lillias White. “My grandmother’s table was my cabaret,” she recalled about the beginning of her long and successful career. In a full-out performance, she then recreated her Tony Award-winning role as an aging prostitute, from the 1997 Broadway musical The Life, with her signature song, “The Oldest Profession.” It was a commanding and fitting finale to this exuberant event. [more]