Nov. 18, composer George and lyricist Ira Gershwin were celebrated for the third time on 50th Street, this time with the honorary renaming of the block between 8th Avenue and Broadway as Gershwin Way. The Gershwin name is already preserved in the Gershwin Theatre and the Gershwin luxury apartment complex.
Frances Gershwin (George and Ira's sister), as well as Gershwin nephews Marc Gershwin and Leopold Godowsky, were on hand for a mini concert of Gershwin tunes and the unveiling of the "Gershwin Way" street sign.
The Gershwins' words and music were represented by the spheres he affected most: cabaret, Broadway, classical music and jazz. Cabaret singer Steve Ross played and sang "S'Wonderful." Jekyll & Hyde's Christiane Noll sang two songs from her "Broadway Love Story" album- "Things Are Looking Up" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It." Godowsky performed the third movement of Gershwin's Concerto In F. The CUNY Graduate Jazz Ensemble opened and closed the concert with jazz renditions of Gershwin tunes.
Ross and Godowsky played on the limited edition Steinway creation, Rhapsody.The custom-made "Rhapsody" piano, named for George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," is the first of 24 instruments to be made, commemorating the 24 days it took to write the classic American work.
The Wednesday performance marks the first public playing of the piano. The instrument is made of blue-dyed curly maple with hundreds of inlaid mother of pearl stars creating the heavens, including the constellation Libra, George's astrological sign. The music desk depicts the New York City skyline. Godowsky and Ross had the honor of being the first two people to publicly play the new piano.
The sign unveiling took place on the corner of 50th and 8th Avenue, where Godowsky pulled a cord to reveal the new "Gershwin Way."
In the 1920s and 30s the Gershwins were one of Broadway most productive songwriting teams, known for their playful melodies and lyrics and their superb craft. Many of their songs ("Embraceable You," "The Man I Love," "Fascinating Rhythm") endured beyond the forgettable plots of the musicals that inspired them (Girl Crazy, Strike Up the Band, Lady, Be Good). Their "legit" landmark was the jazzy, quasi-operatic Porgy and Bess (1935), written with DuBose Heyward.
George Gershwin died in 1937, Ira died in 1983.
Here is a list of the Broadway collaborations between George and Ira Gershwin:
Lady, Be Good (1924)
Tell Me More (1925)
Oh, Kay! (1926)
Funny Face (1927)
Treasure Girl (1928)
Show Girl (1929)
Strike Up the Band (1930)
Girl Crazy (1930)
Of Thee I Sing (1931)
Pardon My English (1933)
Let 'Em Eat Cake (1933)
Porgy and Bess (1935)
The Show Is On (1936)
The brothers intended to write a stage musical based on a P.G. Wodehouse story, but it became the musical film, "A Damsel in Distress," starring Fred Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allen (serving up "A Foggy Day in London Town," "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Stiff Upper Lip").
Broadway has seen two "new" Gershwin-inspired musicals: Crazy for You (1991-92 season) and My One and Only (1982-83 season). Ira died during the run of the Tommy Tune vehicle, My One and Only.