Monday, May 12, 2014

Sheldon Harnick's Hidden Treasures

I rarely buy CDs because my cup runneth over (and my shelves as well) with recordings I get for review, but immediately after I heard this interview on Fresh Air with Sheldon Harnick (recorded on his 90th birthday, which happened to be April 30, 2014, the same day as my 55th) I went to The Musical Theater Project's website and ordered a copy.

The 2-CD set is loaded with demo recordings of many songs that didn't make it into the final versions of the many Broadway shows Harnick wrote with Jerry Bock, including a few pieces that didn't make it into their most famous collaboration, Fiddler on the Roof. Harnick, who is a fine singer as well as a brilliant lyricist, sings on most of the demo recordings (most often with Jerry Bock singing and playing the piano), but there are appearances by Charlotte Rae, Hugh Martin, Betty Garrett, Buster Davis, Claiborne Cary, Danny Meehan, Susan Watson, Buster Davis, Leigh Beery, William Tost, Brian D'arcy James, Audra McDonald, and Margery Gray, who is married to Sheldon Harnick.

[Sheldon Harnick and Margery Gray]

Much of the music comes from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, but there are recordings from the later 70s through 2013 here as well. I admire all of these "Hidden Treasures," and there are some I have grown to love deeply. "Precious Little" is from an adaptation of the film It's a Wonderful Life that Harnick wrote with Joe Raposo. The show never made it to Broadway because a typographical error in the contract made it impossible for the show to be produced in New York. "'Til the Bootlegger Comes" and "Where Do I Go From Here," (one of the best Broadway ballads I have ever heard) were written out of Fiorello, the first highly-successful show Harnick wrote with Jerry Bock, but they have new life here. Perhaps "Where Do I Go From Here" is just too strong a song for any environment other than a recital of great art songs.

The song I listen to daily (and have going through my head while I'm not listening to it) is a 1978 collaboration with Michel Legrand (who plays the piano on this recording), Harnick, and Margery Gray called "My Star." It was a song from a film project that was cancelled, but they recorded "My Star" anyway. I'm so grateful.

My favorite line from that song: "I dream of steam."

No comments: