Composer Burton Lane gave the world such tunes as "Old Devil Moon," "How About You?" and "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," and now the melodies linger on in a world premiere revue, I Hear Music!
The Gorilla Theatre Company in Tampa, FL, is giving the musical a stage, Feb. 3-27, and there are hopes the production will find its way to a New York venue. Director and co-conceiver BT McNicholl, a protégé of Jerry Zaks, told Playbill On-Line outside producers will take a look at the show with an eye toward a staging in Manhattan.
Co-conceived with arranger Paul McKibbins, whose inspiration it was to revive the tunes of Lane (1912-1997), I Hear Music! doesn't attempt to offer a biography of the man. The work speaks for itself, the director said.
"The quality of Lane's writing is really remarkable," McNicholl offered. "He didn't have a signature Sondheim stamp or a Kander and Ebb vamp, but the gift he had was that he wrote incredible melodies."
The songs culled from Lane's films and Broadway shows for I Hear Music! include work with lyricists Alan Jay Lerner, Frank Loesser, E.Y. Yip Harburg and more. Obscure music was also drawn from Lane's notebooks, provided by the Lane estate, with the blessing of widow Lynn Lane, and is heard as instrumental pieces in the show. Becky Rosenbluth, Matthew Aible, Monique Midgette and Eric Grundy perform such Lane hits as "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," "Old Devil Moon," "Too Late Now," "Come Back to Me," "On a Clear Day...," "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isn't Love" and more.
Lane was not a prolific writer: He wrote only four major Broadway shows and scores for several films (memorably, "Royal Wedding," with Lerner).
"What's nice about that is that there isn't a lot of junk," McNicholl said, adding that Lane wrote "only with first-rate lyricists."
The world of I Hear Music! is set in the mid-20th century, and David Skouson musical-directs a jazz quartet. Visually, the design (by set designer Bryan Johnson, costume designer Robin L. McGee and lighting designer Rosie Gier) recalls the color palette of artist Edward Hopper, famous for his "Nighthawks" late-night diner painting.
The show includes lesser-known gems ("Dancing on a Dime," "The Lady's in Love") and specialty material ("The Begat" and one of the longest song titles ever, "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life?").
"Most of the songs are all about relationships," said McNicholl, "or comments on relationships."
"It's Time for a Love Song," from 1979's Carmelina, his last score with Alan Jay Lerner, ends the show.
Producers of the Tampa engagement are Aubrey Hampton and Susan Hussey, of The Gorilla Theatre Co. Jennifer Paulson Lee is the choreographer and associate director.
McNicholl is associate director of Broadway's Cabaret and was an associate of Jerry Zaks beginning with the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He directed the York Theatre's Musicals in Mufti staging of Betty Comden and Adolph Green's Billion Dollar Baby starring a pre-Tony Award Kristin Chenoweth. A CD of that show is expected later in the year.
Tickets for I Hear Music! are $15-$17.50. Gorilla Theatre is at 4419 N. Hubert Ave. in Tampa. Call (813) 879-2914 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones