photo credit Richard Termine
Confidence: Rodgers After Hammerstein
Lyricists at the 92nd Street Y
by Julia Polinsky
seldom does an audience sigh in satisfaction after an evening in the theater. I
Have Confidence: Rodgers After Hammerstein sent the Lyrics and Lyricists
audience, smiling, out of the 92nd Street Y, into a rainy Saturday
last installment in the 2016 Lyrics and Lyricists season, I Have Confidence:
Rodgers After Hammerstein answers the question: after the death of Oscar
Hammerstein, who wrote the lyrics for Rodgers’ gorgeous melodies? Like an essay
question from the SAT, that answer has multiple parts. If you guessed Rodgers
himself, Stephen Sondheim, Martin Charnin, and Sheldon Harnick, you get an A.
decades, the 92nd Street Y has offered its Lyrics and Lyricists
series, a love-drunk homage to the American Songbook. Most recently, I Have Confidence:
Rodgers After Hammerstein gave an enchanting evening of songs by Richard
Rodgers, with lyricists Rodgers himself, and Sondheim, Charnin, Harnick.
Ted Chapin, who is president and chief creative officer of Rodgers +
Hammerstein, shaped a coherent show from what was basically a staged reading,
and offered interesting narration. Larry Pine gave a splendid performance as
Rodgers, reading from RR’s own writings. Kudos also go to stage director and
choreographer Lorin Latarro, and especially to music director Joseph Thalken
and his splendid ensemble, beautifully backing up the vocalists.
Karen Ziemba, T. Oliver Reid, Ben Crawford, Betsy Wolfe, Joseph
Thalken at the piano
those vocalists: the velvet-voiced Ben Crawford, wonderful T. Oliver Reid,
charming Betsy Wolfe, and superb Karen Ziemba, singing Those Songs, made the
evening sound divine. Not often do you hear the audience humming along with the
music coming from the stage, but it happened here – until the singers started
to let loose. Then, all humming stopped, because who could compete with those
voices, those performances, those songs?
what songs! Rodgers wrote words and music to “I Have Confidence,” and
“Something Good,” from the 1962 film version of The Sound of Music, to
“This Isn’t Heaven,” from the film State Fair, and “The Sweetest
Sound,” and the clever “Love Makes The World Go,” from No Strings. His
partnerships with Hart and Hammerstein clearly taught him how to make a lyric
work, and work damn well.
showcasing Rodgers’ own lyrics, then Chapin brought into play songs with words
written by new collaborators. First, Stephen Sondheim worked with Rodgers on Do
I Hear A Waltz, represented here by four songs, the most memorable of which
are the title song and the charming ensemble piece, “What Do We Do? We Fly.”
Do I Hear A Waltz, it seems like the evening plucked songs from Rodgers’
later-in-life flops. The songs performed so lovingly here showcased his
collaborators’ meditations, most often on life and love, and most movingly in
“I Do Not Know A Day I Did Not Love You,” from Two By Two.
on a Clifford Odets play about Noah and the ark, which Rodgers wrote with
Martin Charnin, Two By Two ran for 10 months, a moderate success. Rex
(lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) only opened for a few weeks, and
I Remember Mama (lyrics also from Charnin) Rodgers’ last show, was
famously unsuccessful. And let’s not forget Androcles and the Lion, a
televised play with music, which got mixed reviews (just imagine: live theater
on TV? the mind fairly reels).
Charles Kuralt noted, when writing a tribute for Rodgers: “Richard Rodgers was
a composer for the 1920’s. And then it turned out, he was a composer for the
‘30’s as well. And the 1940’s, the 50’s, and ‘60’s too. And on the last night
of the 1970s, we say good-bye to him – but not to his music. That will go on
and on and on.” In this splendid evening at Lyrics and Lyricists, from flops or
smashes, with his own words or those of his writing partners, Rodgers’ lovely
melodies still get the airing they deserve – after almost a hundred years.
Thanks to the 92nd Street Y for keeping them alive.
and Lyricists at the 92nd Street Y
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