Some 40 years ago, my husband made what turned out to be a suggestion – “a lovely way to spend an evening.” He had heard about an American Songbook concert series. Since both of us were very interested in Broadway, jazz, and cabaret, here was a different way to enjoy it all. The program was called “Lyrics and Lyricists” and was being held at the 92nd Street Y. It’s hard for me to even think that in the forty years I’ve been subscribing it’s grown into the country’s premier American Songbook concert series. So far this season I’ve attended an evening spotlighting Hoagy Carmichael, Bucky Pizzarelli’s eighty-fifth birthday celebration, and, most recently, “Stage Door Canteen.” If you were old enough at that time to recall, the canteen was Broadway’s response to World War II (can you believe that it was seventy years ago since World War II?). In “The Stage Door Canteen” a stream of hits from Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, and more was offered. The program was a salute to some of the greatest songs of The Greatest Generation. For me, it was pure musical joy. During intermission I was one of many ladies standing in line for the rest room (why is it always crowded – and the men get to walk in and out?). In order to make the time pass more quickly I started chatting with a slim, fragile-looking elegant white-haired lady. When I mentioned to her that I hoped the American Songbook would attract young people, she told me she was there with her two grandsons. I also stated that I was surprised not to know some of the songs in the show that night and she replied that she knew every one. As we parted she turned and whispered in my ear, “I am Irving Berlin’s daughter.” That gave me quite a jolt. As for “Lyrics and Lyricists” there are two left in my five-concert subscription, and I certainly look forward to enjoying them. My dear friend and I have even found a fine place to dine before the show. It’s called Lex Restaurant – just one block from the 92nd Street Y so I can easily hobble there. We sit at Table No. 7 and are able to consume a top-notch dinner (always sharing – always scale-aware) before “Lyrics and Lyricists” – one mo’ time.
Some folks have total recall. I’m not one of them. My memory mixes up my youthful reading of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and the movie adaptation starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Actually, I do remember enjoying yet being frightened by both the book and that film. When I learned that a new film version of “Jane Eyre” was being made, my first reaction was, “Who needs it?” The nineteenth century novel has been adapted close to forty times – that’s counting film and TV adaptations. Yet its basic story still has good bones (not me). There’s the meek, plain, new, nervous governess, the handsome, Byronic master staring into the fireplace, the old dark house crouching by a cliff, and strange noises at night. All of this frightened yet intrigued me as a youngster. The most recent “Jane Eyre” movie has a fine cast, especially Mia Wasikowska (love that name). In addition, I’m always glad to see one of my favorite actresses, Judi Dench, even in a small character role. She plays the nasty, talkative, gossipy housekeeper (a frightening person). I’m hoping that this “Jane Eyre” comes to Bayonne’s Frank Theatre. It has a fresh reason for being.
These days it’s unusual to learn that a show on Broadway has been extended to run until July 1st. The show is “The Importance of Being Earnest” and, as New York Magazine put it, “It’s funny as hell.” Having been a fan of Oscar Wilde, I’m familiar with many of his comedies, including this one. Though I know its story including the surprise ending, I found it very enjoyable. Much of the success of this revival has to do with Brian Bedford who is the director and also plays the fearsome character, Lady Bracknell. Presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company, I saw the current “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the American Airlines Theatre. The building has been restored and is now beautiful with a spacious upstairs lobby. Being there somehow enhanced the pleasure of seeing this show. And even the cast appears to be having as much fun as the audience. In fact, after the final curtain call, audience members were invited to chat with them. If you can get to 42nd Street, you’ll enjoy this show and you might agree with Oscar Wilde who said of his play, “It’s a trivial comedy for serious people.”
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org.