Gershwins Get Their "Way": 50th Street Renamed At NY Curbside Concert Nov. 18

News   Gershwins Get Their "Way": 50th Street Renamed At NY Curbside Concert Nov. 18
 
The brothers Gershwin -- lyricist Ira and composer George -- already have a theatre and a new luxury apartment building named after them on Manhattan's 50th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway, so who could ask for anything more?
City officials, developers, theatre fans and Gershwin family members, that's who.

The brothers Gershwin -- lyricist Ira and composer George -- already have a theatre and a new luxury apartment building named after them on Manhattan's 50th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway, so who could ask for anything more?
City officials, developers, theatre fans and Gershwin family members, that's who.

The piece of 50th Street where both the Gershwin Theatre and the new high-rise Gershwin residence sit will be renamed Gershwin Way, 11 AM Nov. 18. A new street sign will be unveiled proclaiming the block-long stretch's new name.

The public is invited to join the music-filled festivities, where Gershwin's nephew Leopold Godowsky will play a "curbside concert" on a new, limited edition, blue "Rhapsody" grand piano made by Steinway.

Godowsky will be joined by Broadway singer Christiane Noll, of Jekyll & Hyde, and the CUNY Graduate Jazz Ensemble. Noll will sing tunes from the Gershwin songbook.

Expected at the event are city officials; Gershwin family members, including George and Ira's sister, Frances Gershwin, nephews Marc Gershwin and Leopold Godowsky; and the Resnick family, the owner developers of The Gershwin apartments. 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.

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.

Here is a list of the Broadway collaborations between George and Ira Gershwin:

Lady, Be Good (1924)
Tell Me More (1925)
Tip-Toes (1925)
Americana (1926)
Oh, Kay! (1926)
Funny Face (1927)
Rosalie (1928)
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.

-- By Kenneth Jones

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