Arlen, Gershwin & Harburg's Life Begins at 8:40 to Get Concert and Recording; Luker, Prince, Oscar Star

News   Arlen, Gershwin & Harburg's Life Begins at 8:40 to Get Concert and Recording; Luker, Prince, Oscar Star
Life Begins at 8:40, the 1934 Broadway revue with songs by composer Harold Arlen and lyricists Ira Gershwin and Yip Harburg, will get its first performance in 75 years in a starry concert in Washington, DC, presented by the Music Division of the Library of Congress.
Rebecca Luker
Rebecca Luker

The score will be recorded later by PS Classics, the Grammy Award-nominated record label devoted to theatre music and the American popular songbook.

The show's best-remembered songs are "Fun to Be Fooled," "You're a Builder-Upper" and "Let's Take a Walk Around the Block."

On March 22 at Coolidge Auditorium at 10 First St., S.E., in Washington, DC, Aaron Gandy will conduct a 24-piece orchestra and a principal cast of Broadway and recording veterans, including Kate Baldwin, Philip Chaffin, Christopher Fitzgerald, Montego Glover, Rebecca Luker, Brad Oscar, Faith Prince, Graham Rowat and Jessica Stone. A chorus will bump the cast size to 25.

A week after the concert, the troupe will reassemble in a New York studio to preserve the work on disc; the album will be produced by PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker. A summer release is expected.

The concert and recording will include a great deal of unpublished and unrecorded material from the show, making it a find for musical theatre fans. The show's sketches were by various writers, including Gershwin and Harburg. One of their sketches will be part of the concert, has learned. David Glenn Armstrong will direct the concert. The concert and recording are made possible by The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust for the benefit of The Library of Congress.

Life Begins at 8:40 originally opened on Aug. 27, 1934, at New York City's Winter Garden Theatre, under the auspices of the Shubert brothers, and ran for 237 performances. The original cast included Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, (pre-dating their work in Arlen and Haburg's "The Wizard of Oz"), Luella Gear and Frances Williams. The orchestrations were by Hans Spialek, Robert Russell Bennett and Don Walker.

"As with most musicals of the period, many of the original performance materials from Life Begins at 8:40 were scattered and lost following the Broadway run," according to Library of Congress notes. "Miscellaneous manuscripts were part of the spectacular 'Secaucus [NJ] warehouse find' in the 1980s; those materials are now in the collections of the Music Division of the Library of Congress. Other elements of the show were housed in the Shubert Archive in New York City. These were the basis for reconstructing the original piano-vocal score and orchestra parts."

The restoration of Life Begins at 8:40 was supervised by Larry Moore. Elizabeth Auman of the Library's Music Division and Robert Kimball, artistic advisor to the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, are overseeing the restoration, concert and recording.

The Library has previously collaborated with PS Classics on its Songwriter Series, with CD releases of writers singing their own compositions, including "Hugh Sings Martin," "Charles Sings Strouse," "Jonathan Sings Larson" and "Howard Sings Ashman."

The March 22 concert will be at 8 PM. The Library's Coolidge Auditorium is located on the ground floor of its Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First St. S.E. in Washington, DC. A limited number of tickets will be made available to the public directly from the Music Division. For more information, telephone or email Elizabeth Auman at (301) 974-5820 or or Michele Glymph at (202) 707-8656 or

The Library of Congress is home to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, "the world's preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of the Gershwin brothers." According to the Library, "it contains a wealth of materials that provide insight into their careers and personalities, including manuscripts and printed music, photographs, correspondence, business papers, scrapbooks and iconography. A permanent tribute to the Gershwins and their work, the Gershwin Room features George's piano and desk, Ira's typing table and typewriter, self portraits of both brothers, and a selection of musical manuscripts from Gershwin stage and screen shows such as Lady Be Good, Funny Face, Girl Crazy and Of Thee I Sing."

Many of the Library's resources can be accessed through and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at


Founded in 2000 by Tommy Krasker & Philip Chaffin, and a four-time Grammy nominee (for its cast albums of Assassins, Nine: The Musical, Grey Gardens and Company), PS Classics celebrates the heritage of Broadway and American popular song through its award-winning cast recordings; solo albums by such luminaries as Maureen McGovern, Victoria Clark, Jessica Molaskey and Christine Andreas; and recordings drawn from rare sound archives, including "Sondheim Sings." Its most recent releases include solo albums by Liz Callaway, Rebecca Luker and Kate Baldwin, and Broadway cast recordings of Finian's Rainbow and A Little Night Music. Visit

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