Art Song Cabarets

     In 2001, The Other Side of Broadway presented “The Other Side of Broadway’s Art Song Cabaret,” featuring thought-provoking, funny, and moving art songs by composers best known for their theatre scores: Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story); John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago); Mary Rodgers (Once Upon a Mattress); Robert Waldman (The Robber Bridegroom); Jennifer Giering (Island of the Blue Dolphins); Howard Levitsky (Girls Are From Pluto, Boys Are From Uranus); David Wolfson (Story Salad); and Jay Alan Zimmerman (The Madness Channel).

     There were three performances of the same program, November 4, 11, and 18, at 7:00PM at the FireBird Cafe, 365 West 46th Street, New York City, as part of the ASCAP/FireBird Songwriters Series.  The program included selections from: Scenes From Parenthood (music by Howard Levitsky, text by Phyllis McGinley); Some of My Best Friends Are Children (music and lyrics by Mary Rodgers); I Hate Music! (music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein); Cityscapes (music and lyrics by David Wolfson); Punctuated Thoughts (music and lyrics by Jay Alan Zimmerman); Love Among the I-Beams (music by Robert Waldman, lyrics by Alfred Uhry); These Long Last Days (music and lyrics by Jennifer Giering); and two Shakespeare texts set by John Kander and Robert Waldman.  Sarah Rice, the original Johanna in Sweeney Todd, and Edmound Fitzpatrick were the singers.  Barbara Irvine was the pianist and music director.  The performances were directed by Tom O’Horgan, the legendary director of the original Broadway production of HAIR.

In his November 10, 2001, Daily News column, Howard Kissel wrote, 

    "Chanteuses may be in short supply but cabaret itself is very lively these days — including . . . shows that go down well in comfortable settings. 

    . . . There is a great range of material in "The Other Side of Broadway," which will be presented the next two Sunday evenings at Firebird Cafe. 

    Part of an ongoing project by pianist Barbara Irvine to perform the "serious" work of Broadway composers, this program includes songs by Leonard Bernstein, John Kander, Robert Waldman and Mary Rodgers. 

    Some beguiling children's songs by Rodgers are being given their first public performance. Two haunting settings of Shakespeare by Kander and Waldman serve as encores, and there are some impressive song cycles by two newcomers, Jennifer Giering and Jay Alan Zimmerman. 

    All are sung beautifully by Sarah Rice and Edmound Fitzpatrick, elegantly accompanied by Irvine."

    On November 9, 2001, we presented this same program to an audience of students, professors, and community people at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.  The Commons at the Benham-Pence Student Center was set up like a cabaret room for us, with tablecloth covered tables, votive candles, and a dessert buffet.  It was gratifying to get such a positive response to an evening of almost entirely new music.  Said Trudy Faber, Chair of the Department of Music, of the evening, ". . . a throughly satisfying program.  . . . Thank you for sharing these art songs of Broadway composers with us and for bringing this side of Broadway to Wittenberg for one delightful evening."

   On September 23 and 30, 2002, we presented "Songs of the Poets" at Danny's Skylight Room in New York City.  The program included settings of texts by Sullivan Ballou, William Blake, Robert Bly, Emily Dickinson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Thomas Hardy, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Walt Whitman, and William Carlos Williams, set to music by composers John Kander, Charles Strouse, Galt MacDermot, and new-generation composers David Friedman, Norman MathewsRichard Pearson Thomas, and Elliot Weiss.  Our performers were Broadway singers Kelly Ellenwood and Peter Samuel, with music director Barbara Irvine at the piano.  Tom O'Horgan directed.  

SAID GEORGE PRESTON OF WNYC-FM:

    “What a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  Songs of the Poets reminds one that great musical theatre really happens in the absence of applaud able scenery. 

    In an intimate space, on a small stage, with minimal lighting effects, two gifted singer/actors, Kelly Ellenwood and Peter Samuel, and their powerhouse music director, Barbara Irvine, took a rapt audience on a journey through wit, faith, loss, bitterness, love, laughter and life. 

    Texts by Sullivan Ballou, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy and William Carlos Williams, to name a few, have been masterfully set by such stalwarts of musical theatre as John Kander, Galt MacDermot, David Friedman and Charles Strouse, and the result is a vibrant program of art song, informed by the kind of commitment to communication not often achieved in the world of purely Classical music. 

    The eclectic evening was subtly shaped and brought into a satisfying cohesion by Broadway veteran director, Tom O'Horgan. 

    Some of the selections may be hard to classify, so why bother?  The well-taken point is to enjoy the rich fruit of the union of great words and music." 

   On February 6, 2003, we presented the same program at The Kennedy Center.  You can read more about the program and watch a video of our performance at http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium/artist_detail.cfm?artist_id=OSBROADWAY.


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