Friends Say Goodbye to Michael Kuchwara and Larry French, With Music

PlayBlog   Friends Say Goodbye to Michael Kuchwara and Larry French, With Music
"You'll Never Get Away From Me," Rose and Herbie's playful love duet in Gypsy, assumed a different — a deeper, larger — meaning when used as the call to worship for Michael Kuchwara's funeral at the Church of St. Francis Xavier.

Kuchwara was The Associated Press' drama critic for a quarter-century, and the June 4 service was heavily attended by theatre publicists and the critical fraternity.

Gypsy was his favorite show — he was, in fact, listening to its music on his iPod when he died of complications from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis May 22 at Manhattan's Beth Israel Hospital — so it was entirely apt that the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim score was played for the congregation coming and going. For a postlude, as the crowd filed out of the church, the recording of Ethel Merman's supersonic "Everything's Coming Up Roses" bounced off the arches of the great cathedral.

Four days later, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, services were held for actor Larry French, a concert artist and vocal coach who had performed as recently as the 2010 BC/EFA Easter Bonnet Competition. He died May 28 of a massive heart attack.
Rebecca Luker, a friend for 25 years, began the service with a song which she introduced in 1991's The Secret Garden, "How Could I Ever Know?"

And, following the closing prayer and benediction, she and George Dvorsky performed Tommy's farewell to Fiona from Brigadoon, "From This Day On."

The 1980 Brigadoon revival was French's first Broadway credit. His widow, lyric soprano Jeanne Lehman, invited the audience — mostly, actors — to join in a concluding chorus of the title tune. Sheet music had been slipped into the program.

Sometimes, show tunes can be used just as effectively after the funeral.

At the 2006 memorial service for producer Cy Feuer (whose many hits were capped by the original Guys and Dolls), a tiny, rag-tagged "mission band" had been hired so that the mourners filing out of the Lunt-Fontanne would be ushered back to reality and the hot-bricks of 46th Street with the wailing strains of "Follow the Fold."

— Harry Haun

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