The Musical Theater Project Presents “Make Someone Happy: The Songs of Comden & Green”

 

Fri 1/24 @ 7PM

Sun 1/26 @ 3PM

Betty Comden (nee Basya Cohen) and Adolph Green were noted as one of the luminaire lyricist and script-writing teams of mid-20th century Broadway and Hollywood.

The duo, who were a creative partnership but not a romantic couple, met while they were studying drama at NYU. They formed a troupe called The Revuers, which consisted of Betty, Adolph and Judy Holliday, and played at venues in Greenwich Village. Green’s good friend Leonard Bernstein often played the piano for the group.

The act’s success earned them a movie offer, but their roles in the Hollywood flick were so small they barely were noticed. They quickly returned to New York. Their first Broadway composing effort teamed them with Bernstein for On The Town, a critical and financial success. Unfortunately, their next two stage attempts were flops.

Discouraged, they left New York for Hollywood, this time to be lyricists, not performers. They found much success at MGM, which was noted for producing many memorable films during the era of the Golden Age of the Movie Musical. Included were Comden and Green’s Singing’ in the RainGood News and The Band Wagon. Flush with success, they returned to Broadway where they found Great White Way praise with Two on the Aisle, Wonderful Town, Peter Pan, On The Twentieth Century and Bells Are Ringing. The latter show united them with Judy Holliday.

Their song creations included such classics as “The Party’s Over,” “It’s Love,” “Lucky to be Me,” “Make Someone Happy,” “Never Never Land,” and one of the top hits of all time, “New York New York.” Often referred to as Broadway’s “merry pranksters,” Betty and Adolph continually wrote about the witticism of life, of childhood, and how to escape from reality.

The Musical Theater Project will pay tribute to the duo in “Make Someone Happy: The Songs of Comden and Green.” The multimedia production will be hosted by Bill Rudman and Nancy Maier and feature Eric Fancher, Sheri Gross and Sara Masterson.

Eric Fancher is well known to many CLE theatergoers for appearing in more than 100 local theater productions.

Originally from Detroit, the handsome and talented 31-year-old, who is noted for his well-trained singing voice and compelling stage presence, moved to this area in 1991. The product of an “artsy” theatrical family, his father, a minister, was a theater major in college, and his mother is a music teacher.

How did he become involved in theater? In a recent interview, Fancher revealed that in high school he was interested in a girl who was interested in theater. How to better win over the damsel then to try out for plays? Though the romance never developed, the theater connection did.

His favorite role: Harold Hill in The Music Man. It was a role he played in a concert version of the classic at Cain Park under the direction of Joanna May Cullinan. It was Cullinan, who is the Marketing Director at TMTP, who made the arrangements for Fancher to try out for roles at TMTP. And as the old saying goes, “The rest is history.”

Besides performing, Eric is the founder of the Cleveland Stage Alliance, which is a “website developed to expose local theater to those who don’t know what’s going on theatrically in the area. It promotes any and all locally produced theater.” As Fancher stated. “There is more theater in CLE than most people know about.

For “Make Someone Happy, he will be singing 17 songs including “New York, New York,” “Once in a Life Time,” “Make Someone Happy,” “I Just Can’t Wait,” and “Captain Hook’s Waltz” from Peter Pan.

What is the rehearsal process like for a TMTP concert?   “There are one or two solo rehearsals with music director, a run-through with cast and a tech rehearsal.” Yes, all that wonder is created in four rehearsals.

What does Fancher like about Comden and Green songs? “They are lyricists who are clever, funny, often beautiful, and each show has a different feel to it.”

Upcoming local gig for the talented singer/actor is TMTP’s “The Impact of Camelot,” to be staged in late May.

You can see Eric and his co-performers in “Make Someone Happy,” at the First Baptist Church, Fri 1/24 @ 7pm. General admission is $38; TMTP Members $33. They’ll be at Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theatre Sun 1/26 @ 3pm.  Tickets are $35-$55. PlayhouseSquare.org.

musicaltheaterproject

[Written by Roy Berko, member: Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association]

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