Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Applause! Applause! Review of "A Man And His Dream: The Lyrics Of Johnny Burke" at Danny's Skylight Room by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of “A Man And His Dream: The Lyrics Of Johnny Burke” at Danny’s Skylight Room was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume III, Issue 1 (April, 1998) of Applause! Applause!

"A Man And His Dream: The Lyrics Of Johnny Burke" - Berk, Durham & Murphy
Danny's Skylight Room (246 West 46th Street, NYC)
Reviewed 4/6/98 at 9:15 p.m.   

David Berk, Caroline Durham and Michael Murphy star in this show which is a tribute to the lyrics of Johnny Burke. "A Man And His Dream" is chock full of songs, the lyrics for which were written by Johnny Burke; 31 in all of which 17 were introduced by Bing Crosby who required lyrics that were not too sentimental or romantic. Michael Holmes was musical director, Jan Wallman directed and most of the arrangements were by David Berk, who conceived of this production.

For the first three years of Johnny Burke's songwriting career, he wrote only music. Then in 1933, when he teamed up with composer Harold Spina and veteran lyricist Joe Young, he began writing only lyrics. Their big hit "Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore" was voted best song of 1933 by ASCAP. The subsequent popularity of Burke's songs landed him a contract at Paramount Studio in the mid-thirties, and unlike most of Hollywood's great songwriters who worked for several studios, Burke spent his entire career at Paramount. Of the forty-two films on which Johnny Burke worked, twenty-five starred Bing Crosby. Johnny Burke had three major collaborators at Paramount: Arthur Johnston with whom he wrote Academy Award nominee "Pennies From Heaven" (1936), Jimmy Monaco with whom he wrote the also nominated "Only Forever" (1940), and Jimmy Van Heusen with whom he won an Oscar for "Swinging On A Star" (1944). Burke also wrote three Broadway shows, two with Van Heusen: "Nelly Bly" (1946), "Carnival In Flanders" (1953), and "Donnybrook!", for which he provided both words and music. Of the three, "Donnybrook!" (1961), ran the longest which was for only sixty eight performances. Burke is the only writer to have had five of the top ten songs at the same time on the popular radio show, "Your Hit Parade" and he did achieve posthumous success on Broadway when in 1995, a highly entertaining revue of his songs, "Swinging On A Star", received a coveted Tony Award nomination for best musical. 

"A Man And His Dream" was well-directed, well-staged and well-performed. David Berk, Caroline Durham and Michael Murphy all have wonderful stage personalities and are talented performers. Dressed to the nines, they executed the entertaining arrangements with aplomb. My favorite solo numbers were "Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (Music by Spina, Lyrics by Burke & Young) performed by Michael Murphy; "Personality" (Music by Van Heusen) and "Sentimental Side" (Music by Monaco) performed by Caroline Durham; and "When Stanislaus Got Married" (Music by Van Heusen) performed by David Berk. My favorite duo was "Put It There" with the numbers "Apalachicola Fla" and "Road To Morocco" (Music to both by Van Heusen) which was expertly acted and performed by Michael Murphy and David Berk.

Although you will come away from the show singing Johnny Burke lyrics, what you will remember are the beautiful medleys interwoven into the fabric of this show. "Moonbeam Medley" performed by Michael Murphy contains "Polka Dots & Moonbeams" and "Moonlight Becomes You" (Music to both by Van Heusen); "Beautiful Medley" performed by David Berk and Caroline Durham contains "Isn't That Just Like Love", "But Beautiful", "Devil May Care" and "Humpty Dumpty Heart" (Music to all by Van Heusen except "Devil May Care" by Harry Warren); and "Too Romantic Medley" performed by Michael Murphy and Caroline Durham contains "It Could Happen To You", "Moonlight Becomes You", "Like Someone In Love" (Music to all three by Van Heusen), "Too Romantic" (Music by Monaco), "Misty" (Music by Errol Garner) and "You're Not The Only Oyster In The Stew" (Music by Spina). 

I urge you not to miss this unique and enjoyable experience.  

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