The Serious Side of Gerard Alessandrini
Why Did Our Most Hilarious Musical Theater Parodist Conceive and Direct a Show Devoted to the Music of Maury Yeston?
By Barbara & Scott Siegel
When you think of Gerard Alessndrini, you think comedy: he is the creator and writer of the legendary Forbidden Broadway franchise, not to mention the creator and writer of the current Off-Broadway parody hit, Spamilton. On the opposite end of the musical theater spectrum there is Maury Yeston, the composer and lyricist of highly dramatic and serious musicals, including Nine, Titanic, and Grand Hotel, all of them awash in Tony Nominations and Awards. But right now, for reasons that are about to be explained, Mr. Alessandrini conceived and directed a musical revue of Mr. Yeston’s work titled Anything Can Happen in the Theater: The Songs of Maury Yeston, that is currently playing at The Triad Theater with an All-Star cast led by Robert Cuccioli and Jill Paice.
The question is why? We asked Mr. Alessandrini just that question, and he said, “I think his music and lyrics are astounding and are great theater pieces. I have been a fan even before Nine was produced on Broadway, when I would hear his songs in the BMI Workshop. I was a student of Lehman Engel, the great conductor and founder of the BMI workshop, and Maury was one of his prize writers. So we had that in common. I enjoy Maury as a friend as well as a collaborator and I have been in close touch with him for over thirty years. I was anxious to do an evening of his songs.”
Of course, Mr. Alessandrini has been a man of the theater since at least the early 1980’s (the first edition of Forbidden Broadway was in 1982), so he has seen the work of every contemporary Broadway composer, yet it was Yeston’s work that spoke so fervently to him that he got behind this major revue. We wondered if there was a magic moment when he bonded with Yeston’s work. He considered the question and said, “It’s hard to choose one moment or song- that I felt my deepest connection to- but if forced to narrow it down, I would say the opening number from his Titanic. It’s great music and lyrics as well as great theater. When the cast album CD came out, I must have played it over a thousand times. Every morning when I awoke for over three years! And I still frequently listen to it now. However, My favorite songs of his are also “Grand Hotel” (the title tune) and “I Had A Dream About You” which is featured in this current evening of Maury’s masterpieces.”
And why now? “I knew that Maury had a very large catalogue of not only famous and beloved songs but many that were never publicly heard. I thought it was about time there was a revue of his work using these great songs.”
This world premiere revue has a limited run, playing through October 21st. Mr. Alessandrini and Mr. Yeston are enjoying the moment, while fans of both men wonder where this collaboration will lead. Modestly, Mr. Alessandrini said,” We have no plans to continue this evening of his songs as of yet. We just wanted to do this with fine actor-singers to celebrate Maury. But it is a great collection and could easily be developed into a production here in New York, London or regionally. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But Maury and I hope for the best!”
Tickets for Anything Can Happen in the Theatre: The Songs of Maury Yeston are priced at $40 (balcony), $60 (general seating), and $80 (premium seats). IMPORTANT NOTE: There is also a 2-drink minimum. Tickets are on sale now online at http://www.triadnyc.com/buy-tickets and by phone at 212-279-4200.