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Arts and Theater 1

 
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Black Tie International:
Bernstein Meets Broadway

 

Bernstein Meets Broadway

Collaborative Art in a Time of War

At Barnes & Noble – 86th & Lex

September 15, 2014

Story and Photos by:  Abe Shainberg



Carol J. Oja.  Photo by:  Abe Shainberg

Carol J. Oja

Panel:  Billy Henderson, Adam Green & Jamie Bernstein.  Photo by:  Abe Shainberg

Panel:  Billy Henderson, Adam Green & Jamie Bernstein

Singing like Billie Holiday.  Photo by:  Abe Shainberg

 Singing like Billie Holiday

On The Town review.  Photo bt:  Abe Shainberg

On The Town review

 

 
 

Carol J. Oja had a helluva sendoff to launch her new book on Broadway. With a huge cast of great singers & performers, an insightful panel and Carol herself talked about the seminal play “On the Town”, written by Adolf Green and Betty Comden, with music by the legendary Leonard Bernstein.

Carol J. Oja is a professor of American Studies and History at Harvard, that little known college Jeremy Lin played basketball at … among notable presidents and greats.

The 1943-44 Broadway play was directed by Jerome Robbins and was literally the FIRST play ever to star an integrated cast with 6 blacks and an Asian.

On the panel was the fabulous and funny Billy Alan Henderson who starred in the play. She said it was the first play to ever have black and white dancers dancing side by side. Amazing.

More amazing was the critic Bostic’s review: “On the Town revels in their mixed cast and has loads of fun doing it. Blacks were cast as New Yorkers, not as blacks. “How far we’ve come.

Billy Alan stated that her sense of humor got her over many situations as he hailed from Richmond, Virginia, “The Capital of the Confederacy”. When asked to leave a southern diner as “they don’t serve blacks, she replied, “Don’t worry I don’t eat them.”

The panel also had Adam Green, son of Adolf Green and Phyllis Newman and Jamie Bernstein, daughter of Leonard Bernstein.

Many people think that Adolf Green and Betty Comden were married. They never were. They were writing partners and very successful ones. They were part of a comedy and song act in the Village called, “The Revuers” and had Leonard Bernstein and Billie Holliday to work with.

They made nonsense lyrics to classical music, which spawned several Leonard Bernstein ideas of tying classical music to Broadway. Hence History and double hence – the Carol Oja book.

Billy Henderson said that the growth of an era was the epiphany of classical music tied to song and dance on Broadway.

The musical numbers were magical and kudos to the unpaid performers ( ESSENTIAL VOICES USA & others) who rocked the house. Literally. They were so powerful, I almost fell off my chair.

The numbers opened with , “Sleep in your Lady’s Arms,” and followed by “New York, New York a helluva Town, “ “Fancy Free”, Lonely Town”, (“Unless there’s love, the world’s an empty place”) and “I Can Cook Too”, a lively feminist song by Diane Rose Beckert. She can sing – but can she really cook?

Jamie Bernstein said the REVIVAL of On the Town is in weeks and will have the biggest pit orchestra (28 pieces), marrying fine music & Broadway. Producer: Kagan; Conducter: Judith Clurman and Pianist: Kirk Crowley.

Barnes & Noble could have sold out a 500 seat theater last night. The place was jammed and everyone there loved the show.  Hey guys – Do it again and soon.

 

joyce brooks, gerard mckeon.  photo by:  rose billings

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