Second in the series of salons presented by 42nd Street Moon is a tribute to Ira Gershwin. The January 28th salon will be led by Broadway veteran Donna McKechnie. Also joining the cast is Klea Blackhurst, as well as Bill Fahrner, Alexandra Kaprelian and Darlene Popovich.
42nd Street Moon's first "Salon Evening" salutes the words of lyricist and librettist Ira Gershwin. Ira's career spanned the 20th century, and brought the world a dazzling array of songs written with his brother George as well as Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern, Vernon Duke, and others, including Fascinating Rhythm, Embraceable You, The Man That Got Away, The Saga of Jenny, Who Cares?, Long Ago and Far Away, The Man I Love, and Someone to Watch Over Me.
Donna McKechnie danced her way into theatre history with her trailblazing performance as Sheila in the original A CHORUS LINE on Broadway, for which she received the Tony Award. Her long list of Broadway credits include: HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS...., A FUNNY THING HAPPENED..., ON THE TOWN, PROMISES-PROMISES and COMPANY.
Gershwin was born Israel Gershovitz in New York City to Morris and Rose Gershovitz who changed the family name to Gershwin well before their children rose to fame. Shy in his youth, he spent much of his time at home reading, but from grammar school through college, he played a prominent part in several school newspapers and magazines. He graduated from Townsend Harris High School in 1914, where he met Yip Harburg. He attended City College of New York but dropped out.
While his younger brother began composing and "plugging" in Tin Pan Alley from the age of eighteen, Ira worked as a cashier in his father's Turkish baths. It was not until 1921 that Ira became involved in the music business. Alex Aarons signed Ira to write the music for his next show, Two Little Girls in Blue (written under the pseudonym "Arthur Francis"), ultimately produced by Abraham Erlanger, with co-composers Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin. Gershwin's lyrics were well received and allowed him to successfully enter the Theatre World with just one show.
It was not until 1924 that Ira and George Gershwin teamed up to write the music for their first Broadway hit Lady, Be Good!. Once the brothers joined together, their combined talents became one of the most influential forces in the history of American Musical Theatre. "When the Gershwins teamed up to write songs for Lady, Be Good, the American musical found its native idiom". Together, they wrote the music for more than twelve shows and four films. Some of their more famous works include "The Man I Love", "Fascinating Rhythm", "Someone to Watch Over Me", "I Got Rhythm", "Summertime", and "They Can't Take That Away from Me". Their partnership continued until George's sudden death from a brain tumor in 1937. Following his brother's death, Ira waited nearly three years before writing again.
After this interlude, he teamed up with such accomplished composers as Jerome Kern (Cover Girl); Kurt Weill (Where Do We Go from Here? and Lady in the Dark); and Harold Arlen (Life Begins at 8:40; A Star Is Born). Over the next fourteen years, Gershwin continued to write the lyrics for many film scores and a few Broadway shows. But the failure of Park Avenue in 1946, a "smart" show about divorce, co-written with composer Arthur Schwartz, was his farewell to Broadway. As he wrote at the time, "Am reading a couple of stories for possible musicalization (if there is such a word) but I hope I don't like them as I think I deserve a long rest." In 1947, eleven songs he and George had written but never used were incorporated into the Betty Grable film The Shocking Miss Pilgrim.