Revue celebrates long collaboration
March 4, 2016
STUART — Barry Day has such imposing credentials that a reporter might be intimidated. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a trustee of the Noel Coward Foundation. Queen Elizabeth II awarded him an Order of the British Empire “for services to British culture in the United States.”
You might be intimidated, until you talk with him and hear his self-deprecating humor and dry wit. Day is the author of numerous books but he is also an actor and director, putting together musical revues celebrating the works of some of America’s greatest composers. Last year, Lee Bell at the Kravis Center introduced Day to John Loesser over lunch. The result was last year’s “More of Loesser” at the Lyric Theatre.
This year, Day returns with a cast of Billy Stritch, Marissa Mulder and Klea Blackhurst in a tribute to John Kander and Fred Ebb, the duo who wrote “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” It’s called “Kander & Ebb…And All That Jazz.”
Barry Day spoke about why a Kander and Ebb show seemed right.
“They pick up where the Great American Songbook begins to fade,” Day said. “It’s past (the time of) Gershwin, Berlin and Cole Porter. Kander and Ebb came along and wrote for most of the last 40 years of the last century. They got together in 1963.”
Then there was the death of John Kennedy and the Cold War.
“They had a view that was not so much cynical as realistic. It was a difficult time. They represented the mood of the country at a point in time through pop music. It’s a difficult time out there, but you keep going. You have to laugh through it and while happy days are not here, you have to get on with it.”
Kander and Ebb helped shape musical theater history in the last part of the 20th century, in part because their partnership lasted for 40 years, until Ebb’a death in 2004. Some of the darkness in “Cabaret” and “Chicago” represent the times in which they were written, although they were set in earlier eras.
“What Fred Ebb said about ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago’ is that you have to look back to look forward,’” Day said. “They took earlier periods, but there are things in there that are predictive of what might happen. The song ‘Razzle Dazzle’ from ‘Chicago,’ with the line ‘How can they see with sequins in their eyes?’ could be a theme song for Donald Trump. That’s why it still resonates.”
Day has organized the revue into the various ways the duo treat love, from optimism to disappointment.
“I am the narrator,” Day said,
I link the material and the artists. We try to keep it moving. I’ve always said I write the books I want to read and the shows I want to see.”
Day’s love for Noel Coward comes from his feeling that the playwright understood people and what was in their hearts.
“I have an admiration for people who understand how people feel,” he says. For this reason, his next show may well feature the music of Jerome Kern.
“It’s romanticism and what a wonderful sense of feeling and rhythm,” he said. “These are the poets of our times, in my view. They speak to real people in ways they can respond to.”
The Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart, presents “Kander & Ebb…And All that Jazz,” March 8 at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $45.
Call the box office at (772) 286-7827 or order online at www.lyrictheatre.com.