On Sept. 8, 1997, Maurice Levine, founder of the 92nd Street YMHA's Lyrics & Lyricists Series, died of a stroke he suffered in June 1997. His legacy was to create a musical seminar that looked back at the careers and legacies of musical theatre's greatest writers and composers.
What better way to honor Levine's memory then, than with a musical tribute? Angela Lansbury will host the star-studded event, happening May 18 at the 92nd Street Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall.
Titled "The Longest Running Show On Broadway: A Musical Tribute To Maurice Levine," the evening will feature appearances by Mike Burstyn (The Fishkin Touch), Debbie Gravitte (Jerome Robbins' Broadway), Kitty Carlisle Hart, George Hearn (The Diary of Anne Frank, La Cage Aux Folles), Judy Kaye (Ragtime), Judy Kuhn (Chess), Jim Lowe, Donna McKechnie (A Chorus Line), Tony Randall (The Sunshine Boys), critic Rex Reed, Marcia Lewis and the "Six Merry Murderesses" of Broadway's Chicago, and the 92-Y Children's Choir.
Charles Repole will direct the event, with Don Pippin serving as musical director. Designing the tribute are Michael Anania (sets) and Jack Mehler (lighting). Michael Colby penned the script. For tickets ($300) to this black tie benefit for the 92nd Street Y call (212) 415-5488.
According to the NY Post obituary, Levine received a master's degree in music from Yale and started at the YMHA in 1947 as conductor of its symphonic workshop. In 1987, he wrote the narration for concert versions of Let `Em Eat Cake and Of Thee I Sing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He started Lyrics & Lyricists in 1970 and served as its artistic director for 27 consecutive years.
According to 92nd Street Y spokesperson Kate Cohen, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Sheldon Harnick and Rex Reed spoke at the funeral, Sept. 10, 1997. "It was very touching, very him, very Maurice," Cohen said of the service. " Rex [Reed] told some very funny stories. He lived in the Dakota; Maurice lived next door. And when Maurice needed help with something, he'd often rush over. Maurice even referred to Rex and Jim [Lowe] as the token Gentiles at the 92nd Street Y. Rex introduced Maurice to goyische food in exchange for learning Yiddish phrases. Maurice used to say Rex was the only person he'd ever seen who put tartar sauce on gefilte fish."
Added Cohen about Levine: "Such tenacity, such energy, such feistiness. He was a great friend of the American musical song."
Last up in the 1998 Lyrics & Lyricists season, June 13-15, is "The Songs Of Jerome Kern, Revisited"
More than 100 years old, the 92nd Street Young Men's & Young Women's Hebrew Association, devoted to individual and family development within the context of Jewish and American life, has featured such speakers as Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher.
-- By David Lefkowitz