S’Just All Right: Gershwin score saves American in Paris

Sep 14

S’Just All Right: Gershwin score saves <i>American in Paris</i>

An American in Paris, adapted by writer Craig Lucas and directed and choreographed by a member of ballet world royalty, Christopher Wheeldon, is a decidedly uneven affair. It wants to be part serious musical (the darkness of Paris after World War II and the Nazi occupation), part musical comedy (three guys in love with one girl!) and part contemporary and ballet dance show. Call it a ballet-sical (mullet doesn't quite work). Whatever it is, it doesn't quite work.

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Porgy sings anew at the Golden Gate

Nov 14

<i>Porgy</i> sings anew at the Golden Gate

p>The music of Porgy and Bess is so pervasive in the musical landscape that actually seeing the show and how the songs fit into the story is a little startling.

I know the George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin-DuBose Heyward score not from cast recordings but from pop and jazz versions recorded by the likes of Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae, Cleo Laine and Ray Charles and Frances Faye and Mel Tormé. And then there are the countless covers of the show's songs. "Summertime" is considered one of the most recorded songs of all time, with more than 30,000 versions. This music, in other words, is part of the American cultural fabric.

Productions of Porgy and Bess don't come along very often...

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Oh, Maureen! Ms. McVerry revisits the Gershwins

Nov 02

Oh, Maureen! Ms. McVerry revisits the Gershwins

In 1993, an ebullient comedienne with a head full of red curls, danced and sang her way across the stage of the Gershwin Theatre (aka the Presentation Theatre) as the bubbly title character in Oh, Kay! a giddy 1926 musical with a score by George and Ira Gershwin.

Maureen McVerry, long one of the Bay Area’s most reliable musical comedy stars, appeared to have a grand time playing a Jazz Age baby wriggling her way through Prohibition and attempting to win the affections of the handsome Jimmy Winter.

McVerry (seen in the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival production at right) made a memorable entrance with a boat on her back. “’Are you sure this is how Gertrude Lawrence got her start,’ I remember thinking,” McVerry says on the phone from her Potrero Hill home.

McVerry is back in the land of Oh, Kay!, this time as the director. She’s helming a slightly revised version for 42nd Street Moon, which begins previews today (Nov. 2) and opens this weekend.

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Moon strikes up a triumphant Band

Apr 10

Moon strikes up a triumphant <i>Band</i>

I've seen a lot of 42nd Street Moon shows over the years, but I've rarely seen one as exuberant, funny, beautifully sung and as hugely enjoyable as Strike Up the Band. Everything about Zack Thomas Wilde's production is top notch, from the extraordinarily sharp book by George S. Kaufman and the immediately appealing score by George and Ira Gershwin to the terrific cast and the gorgeous late '20s costumes (by Scarlett Kellum).

42nd Street Moon is less in the business of presenting musty, dusty lost musicals and more in the realm of offering polished if modestly produced professional productions.
And this Band benefits tremendously from the smaller scale. More attention is focused on the satirical book (the original 1927 Kaufman script, not the Morrie Ryskind rewrite from 1930) and on the Gershwins' songs (especially on Ira's incisively wonderful lyrics).

Without the proverbial cast of thousands, we get a clearer look at just what a gem Strike Up the Band really is, and its snarky attitude about how it's commerce – not politics or even morality – that get us into war couldn't be more timely. Alas.

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Ira Gershwin…on several occasions

Jan 27

I’ve been spending the last few months with Ira Gershwin, and I must say, I have completely enjoyed his company. Greg MacKellan, the co-artistic director of San Francisco company 42nd Street Moon approached me last year and asked me to contribute a narration script for what is becoming an annual Moon tradition: a salon evening paying tribute to a great...

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Broadway by the Bay’s musical man

Apr 01

As someone who has loved musicals since his formative years, Jim Gardia is certainly in the right business. And to think, he could have ended up as a swim coach. In college, Gardia, who was a competitive swimmer, was seriously considering a career as a swim coach. “But theater pulled me harder,” he says. For six years he worked with Los Angeles’...

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