Farewell to Maurice Levine, founder of the 92nd Street YMHA's Lyrics & Lyricists Series, which looked back at the careers and legacies of musical theatre's greatest writers and composers. Levine, 79, died Sept. 8 of a stroke he suffered in June. A previous stroke 17 years earlier affected his speech and forced him to use two canes to get around, but otherwise did not impede his professional life.
According to the NY Post obituary, 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 27 consecutive years.
According to 92nd Street Y spokesperson Kate Cohen, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Sheldon Harnick and Rex Reed spoke at the funeral, Sept. 10. "It was very touching, very him, very Maurice," Cohen said of the service. " Rex [Reed] told some very funny stories. He lived in the Dakota; Maurice lived next door. And when Maurice needed help with something, he'd often rush over. Maurice even referred to Rex and Jim [Lowe] as the token Gentiles at the 92nd Street Y. Rex introduced Maurice to goyische food in exchange for learning Yiddish phrases. Maurice used to say Rex was the only person he'd ever seen who put tartar sauce on gefilte fish."
Added Cohen about Levine: "Such tenacity, such energy, such feistiness. He was a great friend of the American musical song."
Cohen told Playbill On-Line that Levine had already chosen the upcoming season for Lyrics & Lyricists (a reprise of past themes) and that no successor has yet been appointed. Here's the 1998 season line-up:
Jan. 10-12, 1998: The Songs Of Irving Berlin, Revisited
Feb. 14-16, 1998: The Songs Of The Gershwins, Revisted
March 21-23, 1998: The Songs Of Cole Porter, Revisited
May 2-4, 1998: The Songs Of Richard Rodgers, Revisited
June 13-15, 1998: The Songs Of Jerome Kern, Revisited
It's been a sad time for the Y; Former Y director Robert J. Hausman, who passed away April 15. Hausman served as chairman of the Princess Grace Foundation, which dispenses grants to artists in theatre, dance and film.
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