Although Ira Gershwin won't be around to celebrate his 100th birthday, Karen Akers, Burton Lane, Angie Dickinson and many others will -- and so can you. Rob Fisher, musical director of Broadway's Chicago revival, will serve as music director and artistic advisor for a special Dec. 6 concert honoring the great lyricist.
According to Carnegie Hall spokesperson Joy Chutz, playwright David Ives (All In The Timing, Don Juan In Chicago) will provide the script for "Ira Gershwin At 100," which will include anecdotes and reminiscences. Guest performers as cabaret chanteuses Karen Akers, Ruth Brown, Rosemary Clooney and Maureen McGovern, actresses Christine Baranski, Karen Ziemba, Chita Rivera and Angie Dickinson, performers Dawn Upshaw, Michael Feinstein, Scott Wise, John Lovitz and Vic Damone, and composer Burton Lane. The New York Voices and the Smuin Ballets of San Francisco (Smuin will direct and choreograph the entire evening) will also make appearances. The Carnegie Hall Theatre Orchestra will provide accompaniment.
Clips from feature films and never-before-seen home movies will also be part of the mix. Ray Klausen has designed the set, Alan Adelman the lighting, David Toser the costumes, and the whole shebang will be broadcast on PBS's "Great Performances" series in spring, 1997.
90-year-old Frances Gershwin Godowsky, George and Ira's sister, will be honorary co-chair of the event with family friend Kitty Carlisle Hart. "Ira Gershwin At 100" launches the 22-month "Carnegie Hall Gershwin Centennial Project," which will also include other events, workshops, an exhibit in the Hall's Rose Museum, and a centennial birthday tribute to Ira's sibling, George, in Sept. 1998.
Ira Gershwin, the first songwriter to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize (Of Thee I Sing), was born in New York City Dec. 6, 1896. In 1917, "The Evening Sun" published his first song lyric ("You May Throw All the Rice You Desire But Please Friends, Throw No Shoes"). Four years later he enjoyed his first major stage success, Two Little Girls in Blue, written with another Broadway newcomer, Vincent Youmans. In 1924 Ira and his brother, George, created the smash hit Lady, Be Good! and went on to continue their remarkable collaboration through a dozen major stage scores, producing such standards as "Fascinating Rhythm," "The Man I Love," "'S Wonderful," "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," and "But Not for Me." During his long career, Ira also enjoyed productive collaborations with such composers as Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Kurt Weill, Burton Lane and Jerome Kern, with whom he crafted "Long Ago and Far Away." Ira Gershwin died Aug. 17, 1983, in Beverly Hills, CA. For concert tickets ($30-$125) and information on the 7:30 PM event, call (212) 247-7800. There's also a benefit dinner, with tickets ranging from $500-$1250; for information on that, call (212) 903-9650.
-- By David Lefkowitz