The newest addition to 92nd Street Y's Lyrics and Lyricists series, focused on the work of the late Howard Ashman, is presented October 28, 29, and 30 at Kaufmann Concert Hall. Directed by two-time Tony winner Christian Borle, the engagement is the season opener for the New York cultural juggernaut.
Titled Tale as Old as Time: The Songs of Howard Ashman, the concerts celebrate the artistic output of the man responsible for Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Smile, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and more. Featuring a mixture of known tunes and rare gems from unfinished shows, the concert is co-written by Matt Kunkel and Zinzer Jay.
Starring in the concerts are Heather Ayers (Groundhog Day), John Cariani (Caroline, or Change, Something Rotten!), Nadina Hassan (Mean Girls), Manu Narayan (Company), and Khadija Sankoh (Little Shop of Horrors).
Kunkel, who also serves as one of Lyrics and Lyricists' producers, considers Ashman to be a natural subject for the series, saying in a statement that, “what makes Howard Ashman particularly fascinating is his remarkable ability to fuse the popular musical sensibilities of his era, including R&B, folk, and rock 'n roll, with his profound appreciation for the classic American Songbook. This unique synthesis infuses his songs with an unparalleled immediacy that continues to captivate audiences. The average person on the street knows an Ashman lyric. We grew up with the Disney films or experienced them with our children. And that generational crossover is an Ashman sweet spot."
Borle added that “many of Ashman’s central characters are outsiders, but because of his lyrics we feel the full breadth of their joy, heartache, liberation, and happiness. Our empathy and compassion for them, regardless if it’s our first time or our 20th time hearing the song, is ignited and reignited each time. It’s one of the things that makes Ashman such a remarkable lyricist.”
Archival material from the Ashman family is included in the concert, including material from an unproduced musical by Ashman and Alan Menken about Babe Ruth, and one from Sesame Street.
In addition to Kunkel, Stephanie Alvarado Prugh serves as producer. Nate Patten will music direct, Beth Crandall will choreograph, and Greg Jarrett will provide the orchestrations. The band will include Eric Poland on percussion, Alex Eckhardt on bass, Sarah Hewitt-Roth on cello, Julie Pacheco on woodwinds, and Matt Brown on guitar.
For more information, visit 92NY.org.