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The Gershwins, Porter, Ellington, Eubie Blake.

These and other star songwriters created the best toe-tapping, mood-busting, uplifiting music ever written—in the heart of the Great Depression, just when people needed it most. Put on your happy feet and come listen as noted theater historian Robert Kimball packs a show full of songs to shake our collective blues away.

Robert Kimball, artistic director & host


Starring
Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks
Christine Andreas
Klea Blackhurst
Erin Dilly
John Treacy Egan
Jason Graae


Vince Giordano, co-music director
Peter Yarin, co-music director
David Garrison, stage director

 

The Feb 22 evening performance is underwritten by The Edythe Kenner Foundation. The Feb 23 afternoon performance is underwritten by The Henry Nias Foundation, courtesy of Dr. Stanley Edelman.

Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

Artistic Director’s Note

By Robert Kimball

Our show is a presentation of songs about a period of transition in American life. It ranges from the boom times and boundless optimism of the late 1920s to the economic distress that followed the stock market crash and led to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Broadway and the musical theater could not help but react to the changing world. It became apparent that stocks and Florida real estate would not bring Americans the lavish utopia they dreamed of. There was no buried treasure waiting at the end of the 1920s. The best things in life obviously weren’t free.

The entertainment capital of the nation shifted from New York to Hollywood— from the legitimate stages to the motion picture studios. The Rodgers and Hart ingénue was no longer like “A Ship Without a Sail”; she was now selling her “friendship” for “Ten Cents a Dance” as a taxi dancer in the Palace Ballroom.

Photo: George & Ira Gershwin

Many of the foremost songwriters of the era—the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Vincent Youmans, Kalmar and Ruby, Fields and McHugh—continued to ply their trade on the Great White Way whenever possible, but increasingly they accepted the lures and inducements to head West and work for the movie studios, which had just adapted to the new world of talking pictures.

At the same time a new generation of talented songwriters emerged on Broadway in the early 1930s. Many, notably Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Burton Lane, E. Y. Harburg, Kay Swift, Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, were friends and protégés of George and Ira Gershwin, and of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

While many of the songs of the new era remained relentlessly cheerful, some reflected a new realism—a more hardheaded look at love and loss that was reflective of economic and social dislocation.

Yet, even as the Depression worsened, the grim economic situation could not silence the exuberant, life-affirming voices of America’s songwriters or dampen the public’s desire for entertainment that would lift its spirits. Difficult as it is for us to believe, even at the depth of the Depression nearly 200 shows opened in a season. Today that number is around 40, with a corresponding drop in the number of people who see a Broadway show. A very different world; only thanks to stratospheric ticket prices are box-office grosses at a record high. What is not at a record high and may never be again is the number of songs that touch our hearts, linger in our collective memory, and sweep the clouds away.

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Selected Song List

As a special preview, here is a selection of songs from
Sweepin’ the Clouds Away: Boom, Bust and High Spirits

BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON
Lyrics by Leo Robin; music by Richard A. Whiting & W. Franke Harling
From Monte Carlo / Film (1930)

BUT NOT FOR ME
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin; music by George Gershwin
From Girl Crazy / Musical (1930)

JUST A GIGOLO (1929)
Adapted by Irving Caesar from “Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo” (1928)
Lyrics by Julius Brammer; music by Leonello Casucci

LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES
Lyrics and music by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson
From George White’s Scandals of 1931 / Revue (1931)

LOVE FOR SALE
Lyrics & music by Cole Porter
From The New Yorkers / Musical (1930)

MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME
Lyrics by Gus Kahn; music by Walter Donaldson
From Whoopee / Film (1930)

ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields; music composed by Jimmy McHugh
From Lew Leslie's International Revue / Revue (1930)

PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ (1929)
Lyrics & music by Irving Berlin

SOMETHING TO REMEMBER YOU BY
Lyrics by Howard Dietz; music by Arthur Schwartz
From Three’s a Crowd / Musical (1930)

THREE LITTLE WORDS (1930)
Lyrics by Bert Kalmar; music by Harry Ruby

Musical numbers subject to change

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Artist Bios

Robert Kimball, artistic director & host

Robert Kimball is a historian of the American musical theater and artistic advisor to the Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter estates. He has been a member of the advisory committee of New York City Center’s Encores! and a consultant to the Library of Congress, the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Packard Humanities Institute’s musical theater recording project. Robert has been the artistic director for Lyrics & Lyricists programs on Mack Gordon; Johnny Mercer; Irving Berlin; DeSylva, Brown and Henderson; and, most recently, Donaldson and Kahn. A popular speaker and creator/host of American Songbook concerts across the country, his recent appearances include Yale University’s centennial celebration of Cole Porter and the PBS series, "Broadway: The American Musical."

Robert has edited or co-edited six volumes in Knopf’s Complete Lyrics series: Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, Johnny Mercer. He edited Cole Porter: Selected Lyrics and Ira Gershwin: Selected Lyrics for the Library of America’s American Poets Project. His other books include Reading Lyrics, Cole, The Gershwins and Reminiscing with Sissle and Blake. Last year Robert joined the advisory board of the new University of Michigan Gershwin Initiative, which will create the first complete scholarly edition of George and Ira Gershwin’s creative work.

After graduation from Yale College and Yale Law School, Robert pursued his longstanding interest in American musical theater as curator of Yale University’s Collection of the Literature of the American Musical Theater from 1967 to 1971. He received a Drama Desk Award for his rediscovery of lost musical-theater manuscripts in a Secaucus, New Jersey, warehouse.

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Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks

Grammy Award-winner Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks have played in New York nightclubs; appeared in the films The Cotton Club, Finding Forrester, The Aviator and Revolutionary Road and in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”; and given concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Town Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival. Born in Brooklyn, Vince’s passion for this music and the people that made it began at the age 5. He has amassed an amazing collection of over 60,000 band arrangements, 34,000 pieces of sheet music, films from the 1920s and 30s, 78 rpm recordings and jazz-age memorabilia. He sought out and studied with important legends of the period: Whiteman’s hot arranger Bill Challis, drummer Chauncey Morehouse and bassist Joe Tarto.

Vince’s passion, commitment to authenticity and knowledge led him to create a sensational band of like-minded players: the Nighthawks. He has singlehandedly kept alive an amazing genre of American music that continues to spread the joy and pathos of an era that shaped our nation. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks play every Monday and Tuesday night at IGUANA NYC at 240 W. 54th Street for both dancing and dining jazz fans. Their website is vincegiordano.com.

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks



Vince Giordano, string bass/bass sax/tuba/vocals
Andy Stein, violin/baritone sax
Michael Ponella, trumpet
Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet
Jim Fryer, trombone
Dan Block, alto sax/clarinet
Mark Lopeman, tenor sax/clarinet
Dan Levinson, alto sax/clarinet
Peter Yarin, piano
Ken Salvo, guitar/banjo
Paul Wells, drums

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Christine Andreas

One of Lyrics & Lyricists most popular artists, Christine Andreas ended 2013 with a return to 54 Below in New York and to Feinstein’s in San Francisco to sold-out audiences in her acclaimed show, “be- Mused”; a performance at the 24th annual New York Cabaret Convention; and a return to The Town Hall for “The Three Holiday Belles,” with Leslie Uggams and Marilyn Maye. In April Christine has a week-long engagement at London’s The Pheasantry.

On Broadway, Christine starred as Jacqueline in the recent revival of La Cage aux Folles and created the role of Marguerite St. Just in The Scarlet Pimpernel. She first captured theatregoers’ hearts as Eliza Doolittle in the 20th anniversary production of My Fair Lady, earning a Theatre World Award, and she received Tony Award nominations for the revivals of Oklahoma! and On Your Toes. She also starred as Margaret Johnson in a much-acclaimed national tour of The Light in the Piazza.

In concert, Christine has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Town Hall, Kennedy Center, the Café Carlyle and with many major symphony orchestras around the country. Teamed with her husband, Grammy–nominated arranger and composer Martin Silvestri, Christine starred in Silvestri’s musical The Fields of Ambrosia, which opened on London’s West End, followed by concerts in London, Paris and Rome, in Australia, and at the White House. These concerts were the basis for her award-winning CDs Love Is Good, Here’s to the Ladies and The Carlyle Set. Christine’s website is christineandreas.com.

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Klea Blackhurst

Klea Blackhurst has received accolades for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman, Everything the Traffic Will Allow. Her other acclaimed shows are Autumn in New York: Vernon Duke’s Broadway and Dreaming of a Song: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael, in collaboration with Billy Stritch. All are available on the Ghostlight Records label.

This past December Klea appeared with Billy Stritch and Jim Caruso in “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” for the fourth year in a row; a live CD of the show is available. Last November she participated in the Kennedy Center’s ASCAP Centennial Celebration, performing music from 1914 to 1938. She has performed at 14 Mabel Mercer Foundation cabaret conventions, and she has appeared at Royal Albert Hall, The London Palladium, Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Klea’s New York theater credits include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bingo, Radio Gals, Oil City Symphony and Happy Hunting for “Musicals in Mufti.”

Klea recently starred in The Goodspeed Opera House’s 50th anniversary production of Hello, Dolly! Previously she starred in the premiere of the Marvin Hamlisch/ Rupert Holmes musical, The Nutty Professor, directed by Jerry Lewis, in Nashville. Her other regional credits include Rose in Gypsy at the Drury Lane Theatre in Chicago, Call Me Madam at 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco, and Annie Get Your Gun at Glimmerglass Opera. Klea’s radio and television credits include “Onion News Network,” “Sesame Street” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” Her website is kleablackhurst.com.

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Erin Dilly

Making her Lyrics & Lyricists debut, Erin Dilly starred as Mother in the 2013 Tony Award–nominated A Christmas Story, and she reprised her role this past holiday season at Madison Square Garden. Her other Broadway credits include Billie Bendix in Nice Work if You Can Get It; Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for which she received Tony and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, Cinderella in Into the Woods, Luciana in The Boys from Syracuse and Young Phyllis in Follies. She has starred in two New York City Center Encores! productions: Fiorello! and Babes in Arms. She has also established her own acting studio, The Living Studio.

Nationally, Erin has performed the lead roles in tours of South Pacific, Beauty and the Beast and Martin Guerre, for which she received a Helen Hayes nomination for best actress. She starred in the world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies at the Cleveland Play House, and then at the Alley Theatre in Houston. Among her other regional credits are Finian’s Rainbow for Goodspeed Musicals, earning her a Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, Babes in Arms at the Guthrie Theatre, Brigadoon at the Paper Mill Playhouse, and The Secret Garden and Fiddler on the Roof at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.

Erin’s film and television credits include “The Good Wife,” “Elementary,” “Gossip Girl,” the three “Law & Order” franchises, HBO’s “Everyday People," Too Big to Fail and Julie & Julia. Her websites are erindilly.com and livingstudionyc.com.

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John Treacy Egan

Another Lyrics & Lyricists debut artist, John Treacy Egan made his New York theatrical debut in the now-legendary revue, When Pigs Fly, written and directed by Lyrics & Lyricists veteran Mark Waldrop. He then made his debut on Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde, followed by The Producers, where he played Franz Liebkind, Roger De Bris and then Max Bialystock during the last years of the run; he is the only actor to have been contracted to play three principal male roles in the show. His later Broadway credits have been Bye Bye Birdie, The Little Mermaid, Sister Act and, most recently, Nice Work if You Can Get It.

Last November John opened Off-Broadway in the hit musical, DISASTER: A 1970s Disaster Movie Musical. His other Off-Broadway musical credits are Bat Boy: The Musical and It Must Be Him. In 2003 he appeared with Josh Groban in an Actors’ Fund benefit concert of Chess at the New Amsterdam Theater. John toured the US and Europe in productions of Cats and Kiss Me, Kate and his regional credits include Servant of Two Masters at the Yale Repertory Theater.

Among John’s film and television credits are Last Night, The Producers, “Nurse Jackie,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order” and “As the World Turns.” He has released two solo CDs, Count the Stars and On Christmas Morning, and he can be heard on many theatrical recordings, including several volumes of Broadway’s Greatest Gifts.

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Jason Graae

Making his welcome return to Lyrics & Lyricists, Jason Graae appeared last month in A World to Win, a new revue celebrating the career of Sheldon Harnick. He recently made his 54 Below debut with Faith Prince in “The Prince and the Showboy,” winning a Nightlife Award for best duo. He’ll premiere his new show, “49 ½ Shades of Graae” at Birdland in May.

Jason has starred on Broadway in A Grand Night for Singing, Falsettos, Stardust, Snoopy! and Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? His many Off-Broadway credits include Forever Plaid, Olympus on My Mind, All in the Timing and Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, for which he received a Drama Desk nomination. Winner of two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards and two Ovation Awards, he was Houdini in the US premiere of Ragtime, and he appeared in Guys and Dolls and The Music Man at the Hollywood Bowl.

Jason made his Metropolitan Opera House debut as featured vocalist in Twyla Tharp’s Everlast with the American Ballet Theatre, and last fall he played Frosch in Die Fledermaus at the Houston Grand Opera. His television credits include Chad in “Rude Awakening,” Dennis in “Six Feet Under” and guest appearances on many shows including “Frasier,” “Friends” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”; for five years he was the voice of “Lucky the Leprechaun” for Lucky Charms Cereal. He can be heard on more than 45 recordings, including his third solo CD, Perfect Hermany: Jason Graae sings Jerry Herman. His website is jasongraae.com.

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Peter Yarin, co-music director

Co-music director and pianist for “Sweepin’ the Clouds Away,” Peter Yarin has been pianist with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks for the past nine years. Among the highlights of his Nighthawks career, Peter has contributed to the Grammy Award–winning soundtrack of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mildred Pierce,” and he has performed with the band on “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” As a music director, his New York credits include Cupid and Psyche at the John Houseman Theater and The Gondoliers with The Gallery Players; his regional credits include Dracula at the Stonington Opera House. Outside the US, he was music director of the National Dance Institute’s China Exchange Program.

As a composer, Peter recently completed the score to the musical The Masked Zinfandel, with book and lyrics by Justin Warner, which received a reading at the Greenwich House Music School. His score for the musical Sempo was performed in Tokyo’s New National Theater. Projects currently underway include Age of Innocence with Craig Fols. Peter’s song, “Just Some Guy,” with lyrics also by Warner, was published in the BMI Workshop Songbook and is sung by Craig Fols on the BMI website. He contributed music to the score of the independent film Hungry Years and performed in the film as an accompanist.

A faculty member of the Diller-Quaile School of Music, Peter has also taught in programs at Appalachian State University and the Brooklyn Arts Exchange.

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David Garrison, stage director

David Garrison most recently played Patrick Dennis in Little Me at New York City Center Encores!, and he recreated his Broadway role of White Star Line owner J. Bruce Ismay in a concert performance of Titanic last Monday at Avery Fisher Hall. His other credits on and off Broadway include Wicked, winning him a Carbonell Award; A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, earning him a Tony Award nomination; Torch Song Trilogy; Bells Are Ringing; The Pirates of Penzance; I Do! I Do!, earning him a Drama Desk nomination; Middletown; New Jerusalem; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; and Silence! The Musical.

David received a Helen Hayes Award for his work in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along at Arena Stage, and he played the Devil in the world premiere of Randy Newman’s Faust at both the La Jolla and Goodman theaters. His many television credits include Steve Rhoades on “Married...with Children,” and guest performances on “30 Rock,” “The Good Wife,” “Law and Order,” “The West Wing,” “The Practice,” “NYPD Blue,” “Murphy Brown,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and the PBS “Great Performances” presentation of On the Town with the London Symphony.

For Lyrics & Lyricists, in collaboration with Rob Fisher, David wrote and directed “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park: The Art of the Satiric Comedy Song,” and he wrote and hosted “Life Is a Cabaret: The Lyrics of Fred Ebb.” He is a summa cum laude graduate of Boston University’s School of Theatre Arts and is a recipient of its Distinguished Alumni Award. His website is davidgarrison.com.

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