30 September, 2007

Meeting Sheldon Harnick... again...


I just returned home from a The Jerry Herman Gala Concert at The Prince Edward Theatre in Soho. Larry Blank was conducting (he did the orchestrations for Fiddler, and my new friend).

I love Jerry Herman's music. I actually cannot think of a song that moves me more than Ribbons Down My Back. In fact, the beauty of Hello, Dolly! rings so true, and I cannot help but see the beauty of a show that for me is about people choosing to live-- some chosing to start living, others starting to live again. A young man and his best friend who are worried life may pass then by before they experience the joys of life and the world. Two vivacious widows, totally gripped by the loss of their remarkable husbands, and how they decide to live again. It's about begining; and beginning again, and the remarkable courage it sometimes takes to simply "join the human race."

I have a personal affinity for Hello, Dolly! but naturally Mack and Mabel and La Cage Aux Folles are triumphant pieces of theatre as well, and arguably some of the most influential of the 20th Century.

It was also a nice way for Damian and I to "join the human race" as well. We get so few opportunities to have civilized nights out. We enjoyed a lovely Japanese meal before heading to the theatre.

That said, the concert was a very disappointing (terribly under rehearsed, with some very disappointing performances from some rather famous tele-visual personalities and west enders), but the orchestra and Larry were astounding, and the after-show party was worth the entire evening.

The room was filled with lovely familiar faces, and low and behold there were Sheldon Harnick and his wife Margie, and they remembered us from the previous Tuesday evening! They came right over and we spent the whole evening chatting with them. What a treat. What a pleasure and honor.

Margie is a brilliant woman. Vivacious, exuberant, curious, endlessly interesting, and endlessly interested in everything. She is one of those people that makes you feel important. Leaves you warm with her wisdom, her stories, and her interest in yours. She asked about everything. Adventures, Glasgow, London, living and working with Damian.

"That's a hard one. It's all about balance and communication. You have to... share things, be passionate about, love, the same things..."

She looked away. At first off in to the distance, and then her thoughts led her to Sheldon's laughter across the room. Her eyes twinkled. He was talking with a group of people, and when he caught her eye he smiled and raised his glass a little. Margie nodded and looked back at me,

"He is my best friend."

* * *

We talked about the Midwest and about creativity. I asked him if he every felt a need to restructure any of his words, ever felt a desire to update them, improve them.
"Yes and No," he replied. "Sometimes I know that a lyric will never be 'just right' and I know I will have to live with it forever, always niggling at me. But other times, a lyric 'LOCKS IN.' I just know that it is the perfect description, the perfect expression. And I know that I was meant to find it, and that I have achieved something, however small."

He was so kind and interesting, and very sentimental. I told him about the importance of She Loves Me, and it's unparalleled significance to my life. And I mentioned the memory I have of my father's face at Interlochen, sitting in the back row of The Harvey Theatre, watching him sway and smile to during Days Gone By. I will never forget the look on his face, the pure childlike joy, and the pleasure I knew all of it was bringing him.

"Is your father no longer with us?" he asked softly.

"No," I said "... a few years ago."

"I find that very moving..." he put both hands on his chest and became very quiet. "You know, my father never got to see Fiddler either... and he never knew his father. He came over from Austria-Hungary when at just fifteen to find his dad, and he never found him..." he trailed off and looked down for a moment. And then,
"How difficult the train station scene must be for you..."

I nodded. I shifted. I really didn't know what to say.

So he touched my shoulder, and nodded back.


We walked them back to their hotel.
I hope they travel safely.
I hope they somehow know what this evening meant...


  1. One of my very best friends Arielle sent me this the other day, and I thought I would post it, due to relevance. All I can say is oh YUM:

    "Last night I had the opportunity to meet, among others, Sheldon Harnick. I remembered from your blog that you had recently met him and so I mentioned you to him-he and his wife raved about you and about Damian-You made quite an impression!!! They really loved you! Congratulations, dear Al, love Ari x"

  2. oh yum indeed!
    That's fantastic!



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