Sheldon Harnick Musically Meets Moliere

PlayBlog   Sheldon Harnick Musically Meets Moliere
 
Sheldon Harnick turned 86 on April 30, but you would not have suspected it from the robust and agile performance he gave the weekend of May 8 at the 92nd Street Y, hosting the "Lyrics and Lyricists" series' delightful salute to The Art of the Satiric Comedy Song titled, after Tom Lehrer’s song, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”


Harnick is not acting his age off-stage, either, having just written a new show all by himself (book, lyrics and music). “I was reading through the plays of Moliere, and I got to The Doctor in Spite of Himself, and I said, ‘Oh, my God! This was written for Phil Silvers! I think there’s an intimate musical in here.’ So I made one.”

He mentioned the show in passing to Dominick Russo, who runs the theatre program at Northwestern University. He asked to see the script, and, as a result, a reading of the piece was done there at a big music festival last summer. “I thought it would be nine students, but he went into Chicago and got me three professional actors for the leads — Bernie Yvon and two others — and it came off terrifically.

“I thought, ‘The students aren’t going to understand this work because it’s not rock,’ but I didn’t have students. My audience consisted of the 300 people who had funded the festival, so, mercifully, the show went extremely well.”

Currently, Harnick is finishing up a demo of the show so he can send it out. “The trouble is,” he said, “I’ve got wonderful people — Kate Baldwin and Brian d’Arcy James and Chris Fitzgerald — but they’re so busy it’s taking months to get them to do it. It’s very tough to get them all at the same time, but now, with the wonders of contemporary recording, I can record this one on Tuesday and that one on Wednesday and then put them all together. I hope to finish it some time in May.

“I don’t know if it is for Broadway. I’m sending it to the institutional theatres because I think that’s where its home would have to be — places like Roundabout or Second Stage.”

One final Harnick flourish: “The title is usually The Doctor in Spite of Himself, so I’m going to call mine A Doctor in Spite of Himself.”

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