92Y's Lyrics & Lyricists Presents THE VERY MODEL OF A MODERN MAJOR LYRICIST, 1/12-1/14


We all come from Gilbert," said Johnny Mercer. And if you've seen a musical, watched film or TV, read a book, participated in political discourse or have partaken in any aspect of popular culture during the past 125 years, you've likely been influenced by W. S. Gilbert too. Yet Lyrics & Lyricists™ has never paid tribute to this seminal figure. On January 12, 13 and 14 the punishment fits this crime of oversight with The Very Model of a Modern Major Lyricist: W. S. Gilbert and the Broadway He Inspired.

Guest artistic director Rob Fisher teams with writer/host Sheldon Harnick to trace the comic DNA from The Mikado to Me and My Girl, My Fair Lady, Spamalot, The Book of Mormon and beyond in a celebration of Broadway humor and satire. Harnick is joined on stage by vocalists Jason Danieley, Jenn Gambatese, David Garrison and Mary Testa, and a vocal quartet - Ross Benoliel, Christine DiGiallonardo, Michael Marcotte and Lindsay O'Neil.

Fisher plans an evening featuring songs made famous by lyricist Gilbert with musical partner Sir Arthur Sullivan, such as "The Very Model of a Model Major General" (from The Pirates of Penzance) and "A Wandering Minstrel I" (from The Mikado). The evening will also feature songs by those Broadway lyricists who trace their lineage to Gilbert. "We're also likely to do Yip Harburg's 'When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich' (from Finian's Rainbow) and Sheldon's 'Little Tin Box' (from Fiorello!)," Fisher says. "Their lyrics skewering class differences and political greed, respectively, are just as timely today." Harnick adds "Human beings seem to be endlessly corrupt, and consequently there's always someone to comment on that kind of weakness. It never goes out of style."

Harnick, who began performing Gilbert & Sullivan as a high school violinist, found himself attracted to the patter songs and began writing his own. The show includes a song Harnick wrote in college, "The Suave Young Man in the Trenchcoat" which he cites for its Gilbert and Humphrey Bogart influence. "Those kinds of linguistic acrobatics were thrilling but the more I studied him I found out he was a poet, with beautiful and witty lyrics. Doing this show will be an awful lot of fun because I consider him the daddy of all theater lyricists."

L&L shows are Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 and 7 pm, and Monday at 2 and 7:30 pm. Individual tickets begin at $52 with a 35 & Under ticket price of $25. Special opening night celebration tickets are also available for the Saturday, January 12 performance. $200 includes an exclusive post-concert reception with Sheldon Harnick and cast members, plus a premium seat.

Long one of 92nd Street Y's most popular programs, the American Songbook series Lyrics & Lyricists™ was launched in 1970 when longtime Broadway conductor Maurice Levine and lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg (The Wizard of Oz) took to the stage to talk about the then unusual topic of songwriting. Over the years the series has featured great Broadway and Hollywood lyricists including Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim, Dorothy Fields, and Alan Jay Lerner. Since 2004, L&L has featured original programs created by accomplished champions of the repertoire, including John Pizzarelli, Rob Fisher, Sheldon Harnick, Robert Kimball, Rex Reed, Billy Stritch, Lucie Arnaz and Ted Sperling. Each show is designed to celebrate the American Songbook through a blend of narrative and entertainment with a particular focus on lyrics. For more information, please visit www.92Y.org/Lyrics.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.

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