With so many theatre companies spinning new revues (The Melody Lingers On, The Tin Pan Alley Rag) out of the songs of Irving Berlin, it's only natural that the 92nd Street YMHA's Lyrics & Lyricists Series begin its next slate of musical seminars with a tribute to the man who penned such evergreens as White Christmas and Doin' What Comes Nat'rally.
Running Jan. 10-12, "The Songs Of Irving Berlin, Revisited" looks at both better and lesser-known Berlin compositions, sung by P.J. Benjamin, Lewis Cleale, Naomi Naughton, Vivian Reed, Ty Stephens and Karen Saunders. Also taking part will be Berlin's daughter, mary Ellin Barrett, and musical team John Walowich & Bertram Ross. Jim Lowe hosts the event, which has musical direction by Jeffrey Klitz.
It's the first L&L event since the death of Series founder Maurice Levine, Sept. 8. Levine received a master's degree in music from Yale and started at the YMHA in 1947 as conductor of its symphonic workshop. In 1987, he wrote the narration for concert versions of Let `Em Eat Cake and Of Thee I Sing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He started Lyrics & Lyricists in 1970 and served as its artistic director for 28 consecutive years.
Levine had already chosen the upcoming season for Lyrics & Lyricists (a reprise of past themes). Barry Levitt is the new artistic director. He was musical director for Swinging On A Star (1996) and conductor for Little Shop Of Horrors. He's been music director of L&L since 1981 and hopes, in seasons to come, to add more contemporary music to the mix. ("It is not true that great theatre songs stopped being written in 1960," he said.)
Among the other performers that will sing at the Series this season are Margaret Whiting (Dream), Bill Daugherty, Davis Gaines, K.T. Sullivan (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), Debbi Gravitte, Jan Neuberger, Marni Nixon, Carol Woods and Mike Burstyn. After Berlin, here's the 1998 season line-up:
Feb. 14-16: The Songs Of The Gershwins, Revisted
March 21-23: The Songs Of Cole Porter, Revisited
May 2-4: The Songs Of Richard Rodgers, Revisited
June 13-15: The Songs Of Jerome Kern, Revisited
More than 100 years old, the 92nd Street Young Men's & Young Women's Hebrew Association, devoted to individual and family development within the context of Jewish and American life, has featured such speakers as Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher.
--By David Lefkowitz