Jeff Harnar: The 1959 Broadway Songbook

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Jeff Harnar

The 1959 Broadway Songbook

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, November 28, 2017

Reviewed by Peter Haas for Cabaret Scenes

Jeff Harnar
Photo: Seth Cashman

The year 1959 was a happy one for musical theater, with almost two dozen top-quality shows and revues to enjoy—for under $10 an evening. Three decades later, in 1991, this music was celebrated in a revue that Jeff Harnar presented at The Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room. Now, after another two decades, Harnar has brought the music back—with the delightful participation [again] of Alex Rybeck as musical arranger, accompanist, sometime singing partner, and occasional comic foil—to present a masterful and moving evening at the full-house Laurie Beechman Theatre. Once again, Sara Louise Lazarus served as director.

It’s a tribute to Harnar’s style and his unfailing respect for the songs he sings, that it was the music itself that was front and center. Almost non-stop, without patter, he mixed well-known and not-so-well-known selections, almost three dozen, in single numbers and medleys, from such shows as My Fair Lady, Bells Are Ringing, Flower Drum Song, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Fiorello!, Gypsy, Jamaica, and The Music Man, as well as less familiar fare from Harold Rome’s Destry Rides Again, Marc Blitzstein’s Juno ,The Billy Barnes Revue, and Flanders & Swann’s At the Drop of a Hat—the last-named being the source of one of Harnar’s often-performed comic numbers, “Madeira, M’Dear.” Along the way, he changed style, in what might have been an intermission, to “go pop” with “Dream Lover” and, in falsetto, “(Theme from) A Summer Place.”

In an unusual move in cabaret, Harnar published a one-sheet mock Playbill, placed at every seat and noting all his songs, their writers, and the shows in which they were featured.

It’s not surprising that, as Jeff Harnar and Alex Rybeck took their end-of-show bows, the audience stood and cheered.

Peter Haas

Writer, editor, lyricist and banjo plunker, Peter Haas has been contributing features and performance reviews for Cabaret Scenes since the magazine’s infancy. As a young folk-singer, he co-starred on Channel 13’s first children’s series, Once Upon a Day; wrote scripts, lyrics and performed on Pickwick Records’ children’s albums, and co-starred on the folk album, All Day Singing. In a corporate career, Peter managed editorial functions for CBS Records and McGraw-Hill, and today writes for a stable of business magazines. An ASCAP Award-winning lyricist, his work has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Feinstein’s, Metropolitan Room and other fine saloons.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Charles Prentiss

    Jeff: When will you and Alex bring your 1959 Show to Florida? We can hardly wait. How about bringing it to the Wick Theater in Boca — or the Broward Stage Door in Pompano Beach? Chuck

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