There was star power galore assembled to honor the lives and achievements of Kitty Carlisle Hart and the late Moss Hart in the “Hart to Hart” celebration by the Metropolitan Opera Guild (November 21, 2004 at Avery Fisher Hall), but it was Carlisle herself who handily stole the show. After a rollicking build-up that lavishly entertained the enthusiastic crowd, Carlisle made her grand, dazzling entrance and, at the age of 94, proceeded to sing two numbers with strength, style and pizzazz.
This was a cleverly constructed evening built in two parts, the first concentrating on Moss Hart’s illustrious career in the theater and Carlisle and Hart as a couple, then on Carlisle whose presence would top off the evening. The co-hosts were Julie Andrews, directed by Hart in “My Fair Lady,” and opera star and executive Beverly Sills. They had fun sharing their duties, and the presence of Andrews afforded an opportunity for video clips of her by now legendary “My Fair Lady” stage performance.
The evening oozed nostalgia, captured in other clips, photographs and reminiscences by various stars and by Christopher Hart and Catherine Hart, the son and daughter of the honored couple.
Robert Goulet, in addition to singing from “Camelot,” recalled how he was cast in the show and amused the audience with a story of how he and Richard Burton, after quite a bit of drinking, returned to rehearsal and, saying they had worked out a particular scene, proceeded to shock everyone by kissing. Among the many other entertainers were Audra McDonald, Sylvia McNair and Michael Feinstein and opera star Thomas Hampson.
The various speakers included Anna Moffo, Rosemary Harris, Dina Merrill, Orson Bean, Jane Alexander and Celeste Holm, the latter backed by a film clip from her Oscar-winning performance in the1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement,” for which Hart wrote the screenplay. Collaborating with George S. Kaufman, Hart wrote such successful plays as “Once in a Lifetime,” “You Can’t Take It With You” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” all of which were made into films. He also wrote the musical “Lady in the Dark,” which brought the theme of psychoanalysis to the stage.
Carlisle’s television work was highlighted by clippings showing her charm in the quiz show “To Tell the Truth.” There was also a film clip segment from her famous 1935 movie with the Marx Brothers, “A Night at the Opera,” in which she showed her talent as a singer.
So it went, one attraction after another recalling glory days of film, theater and television, and the extraordinary contributions made by Hart and Carlisle. When Carlisle finally made her appearance and received her award, the standing ovation was prolonged and heartfelt, and repeated after she wowed the crowd with song and evidence that even at her age she still has it.