By William Wolf


The York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti presentations are continually worthy additions to theater culture, but its recent retrospective series (January 17-March 9, 2014) honoring the work of lyricist Sheldon Harnick in his 90th birthday year was especially important.

Harnick’s body of work is fundamental to the history of our musical theater, and many in the present generation have not experienced some of his shows for which he wrote exceptionally clever lyrics in collaboration with composers, the late Jerry Bock in particular.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is by far the most widely known, and once again it is due to return to Broadway. The series of concert performances focused on other worthy examples.

The series opener “A World to Win” (January 17-19, 2014), was a new revue surveying Harnick’s professional life illustrated by samplings of his songs. He wrote the biographical continuity and a group of excellent cast members performed.

The other programs included concert versions of “Dragons” (January 31-February 2); “Malpractice Makes Perfect” (February 14-16); “Smiling, The Boy Fell Dead” (February 21-23) and “Tenderloin” (March 7-9). The presentations consistently demonstrated how witty Harnick’s lyrics are.

It was a pleasure to see him in attendance along with his wife Margery Gray Harnick, and observe the enthusiastic cheers audience gave him when he joined the casts in curtain calls. (On sale at the theater’s snack counter was the book “The Outdoor Museum (Not Your Usual Images of New York),” for which Margery took the photographs and Sheldon supplied poems, with a foreward by Mike Nichols.)

In the case of “Tenderloin,” a musical romp about efforts to close New York’s red light district in the late 19th century, Margery Harnick had played the role of the prostitute Margie in the original 1960 Broadway production. This time it was performed by Jen Cody. Afterward the two posed for photographs together.

The York has a subscription audience, and James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director, is on hand to introduce shows in his inimitable style. He emphasizes discounts that subscribers can get, and usually delivers a few funny remarks in making contact with the appreciative audience.

In addition to the Mufti performances, the York regularly presents new musicals, with a strong record of success. A forthcoming revue, starting April 15, 2014, is “Inventing Mary Martin,” conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, co-directed and choreographed by Bob Richard, with music supervised and arranged by David Krane. The York Theatre, Lexington and 54th Street. Phone: 212-935-5820. Posted March 16, 2014.


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