Charnin Curates Rodgers &… Revue, With Hope for Wider Life; Burch, Panaro and White to Star

News   Charnin Curates Rodgers &… Revue, With Hope for Wider Life; Burch, Panaro and White to Star Martin Charnin is hoping that the Richard Rodgers tribute that he's writing, directing and appearing in for 92nd Street Y's Lyrics & Lyricists series will catch fire and burn bright beyond its January 2009 dates.
Hugh Panaro
Hugh Panaro

The Tony Award-winning lyricist of Annie — and lyricist of two Rodgers musicals, Two by Two and I Remember Mama — told Playbill.com that he's crafted the Jan. 10-12, 2009, performances of Rodgers &… as a revue that includes historical context, personal anecdotes and 65 songs composer Rodgers wrote with his six lyricists — Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim, Sheldon Harnick, Charnin and Rodgers himself. (The Y technically subtitles the show Inside Five Collaborations, which doesn't count the songs for which Rodgers wrote both music and lyrics — for No Strings and the film "The Sound Music").

The show's performers (singing with a two-piano accompaniment) will include Alton Fitzgerald White (Ragtime), Shelly Burch (Nine), Hugh Panaro (Lestat, Show Boat, The Phantom of the Opera), Michelle Liu Coughlin and Rich Gray (Seattle's Love Is Love). Keith Levenson is musical director.

Charnin said he's hoping a commercial producer will view the intimate show as a kind of Side by Side by Sondheim-style experience and will pick it up and plunk it down for a longer run in New York City, or that it might become a property for engagements around the country.

Rodgers &… will represent Charnin's first time singing in New York City since the 1980s. He's best known as the director and lyricist of 1977's Annie. He is also the director of all major revivals of the hit, including the recent 30th anniversary Equity tour (which spawned a cast album). That production was recently resurrected as a non-Equity venture now traveling the nation, with a hope to play China, he said.

With composer Rodgers, lyricist Charnin wrote songs for the 1970 Noah's Ark musical, Two by Two, which starred Danny Kaye as Noah. It ran less than a year, despite an affordably small cast and the star power of Kaye. Charnin has recently rewritten Two by Two, added cut songs back into it, and reconceived it. He tested it quietly at a regional theatre and is hoping that it finds a wider life.

Fans of the score cherish the standout ballad "I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You," first sung by Walter Willison, who earned a Tony Award nomination for playing Japheth. It was the show's one Tony nomination.

In 1979, the same year that Rodgers died, his last musical, I Remember Mama, was produced on Broadway. With lyrics by Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, the show starred Liv Ullmann and was based on the famous John Van Druten play of the same name.

Performances of Rodgers &… will play 8 PM Jan. 10, 2009; 3 & 8 PM Jan. 11, 2009; 2 & 8 PM Jan. 12, 2009, at the 92nd Street Y at Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street.

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The 2009 Lyrics & Lyricists season at the 92nd Street Y — the first season under the guidance of new artistic director Deborah Grace Winer — will feature shows created by guest artistic directors Martin Charnin, David Zippel, Robert Kimball, Rex Reed and Billy Stritch.

In a statement Winer said, "The American Songbook is continuously fresh for each new generation of listeners, and new generations of songwriters are constantly expanding the Songbook's range. In concerts stressing musical excellence and featuring the cream of today's performers, I look forward to bringing the classics to audiences who have not yet discovered this music, while also introducing the knowledgeable and enthusiastic L&L crowd to songs being written now in the American Songbook tradition, and are destined to become the 'classics' of tomorrow."

The 2009 season will kick off Jan. 10-12, 2009, with Rodgers & . . .: Inside Five Collaborations under guest artistic director Charnin. Charnin, who was the last lyricist to work with Richard Rodgers on Broadway, will offer a personal retrospective, tracing "the career of this musical legend through his collaborations with five remarkable songwriters: Hart, Hammerstein, Sondheim, Harnick and Charnin, along with Rodgers' own Tony Award-winning lyrics."

Zippel will be the guest artistic director for the Feb. 21-23 offering, It Started With a Dream: David Zippel, which is subtitled "Lyrics He Wrote — Lyrics He Wishes He Wrote". The Tony-winning lyricist of City of Angels will present "highlights from his own scores and . . . his inspirations and personal favorites from the American Songbook canon."

From April 4-6 guest artistic director Kimball will present Sunny Side Up: Roaring Through the Twenties with DeSylva, Brown & Henderson. The concerts, which will feature the vintage big band Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, will focus on the songs of DeSylva, Brown & Henderson, whose tunes include "You're the Cream in My Coffee," "Button Up Your Overcoat" and "The Best Things in Life Are Free."

The Man That Got Away: Ira After George is the title of guest artistic director Reed's show, which will be seen at the East Side venue May 9-11. The concerts will include songs penned by Ira Gershwin after the untimely death of his brother George. Expect to hear such classics as "Long Ago and Far Away," "The Man That Got Away" and "My Ship," among others.

The L&L season will conclude with Sunday in New York: Mel Tormé in Words and Music. The June 6-8 concerts, under the artistic direction of Stritch, will honor "the incomparable singer and songwriter Mel Tormé."

Lyrics & Lyricists shows are presented over a single weekend with show times Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 3 and 8 PM and Monday at 2 and 8 PM.

The 92nd Street Y is located in Manhattan at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue. For more information call (212) 415-5500 or go to www.92Y.org/lyrics2009.

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