Margery Gray Harnick's Photos Married to Sheldon Harnick's Verse in New Book "The Outdoor Museum"

By Kenneth Jones
August 20, 2012

"The Outdoor Museum (not your usual images of New York)," a unique coffee-table book featuring the photographs of former Broadway actress Margery Gray Harnick and related poems by her Tony Award-winning lyricist husband Sheldon Harnick, is in stores from Beaufort Books. Playbill has an exclusive audio clip of the master lyricist reading verse from the book.



What makes the 128-page book unique is not just the vibrant photos, the long marriage of Gray and Harnick and the wedding of their work here, but a CD that accompanies the book. It features octogenarian Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, The Apple Tree, The Rothschilds, She Loves Me) reading his verse contributions to the book.

There are more than 100 images in the book — reflections of the city in puddles, architectural shots, automobiles, flora and fauna of vibrant Central Park, public statues and sculptures, broken homeless people.

The 11 poems (marking chapters and touching on visual themes to come) are titled "The Outdoor Museum," "Debussy in New York," "7 Subway Haiku," "Puddles," "Construction in Blue, Black & White," "Fireworks," "A Car Looks at Manhattan (and my wife looks at a car)," "Swonnet," "Questions," "This Alien Race" and "Landmarks."

In the title poem, he writes:

Whether Guggenheim or Whitney,
the Morgan or the Frick,
the Modern or the Met,
most of us, I think,
have a favorite shrine,
one we've come to love.
You probably have yours.
I certainly have mine
and it's none of the above.

Cover art

He goes on to explain, in picture-painting words that are pure Harnick, that he loves "The Outdoor Museum" — "the vast and varied pile/that is New York City itself."

The book's foreword is by director-producer Mike Nichols, who directed Jerry Bock and Harnick's musical The Apple Tree. "One of the many things this book is about is marriage," Nichols writes. "Sheldon may not have written a verse about it, but through the marriage of pictures and poems, the book itself expresses some of the complex wonders of two into one."

Margery Harnick was known professionally in the theatre as Margery Gray. She appeared on Broadway in Harnick and Jerry Bock's Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello!, plus Greenwillow and Tovarich, plus the 1960s Off-Broadway revival of Anything Goes. She toured the U.S. and Canada with the original English cast of The Boy Friend. In addition to working in commercials and television programs, she has studied sculpture, painting and photography. Her work has been exhibited in New York City and the Hamptons.

Sheldon Harnick reads his poem "Debussy in New York," from the new book "The Outdoor Museum."
 


"The Outdoor Museum" sells for $29.95. Visit beaufortbooks.com.

Read what Sheldon Harnick listed as his treasured theatregoing moments in Playbill.com's Their Favorite Things feature.  Here's a progress report about Harnick's latest musical, A Doctor in Spite of Himself.