Salem Salute to Johnny Mercer

FORT SALEM, N.Y. - Continuing its "Springtime Salute to the Great Songwriters," this Saturday, April 20, at 8 p.m., the Cabaret at Fort Salem Theater presents four Broadway performers in a musical revue titled "Echoing Back: The Songs of Johnny Mercer."

Conceived by Broadway dance guru Karin Baker, whose first Broadway show was George M!, and who served as personal tap dance assistant to the late Gower Champion in the creation of Broadway's 42nd Street, "Echoing Back" features Mary Lou Barber (National Tours of Cats, 42nd Street, and A Chorus Line), Juliet Ewing (Footloose), Bambi Jones (Nunsense, Show Boat - London Company, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane), and Patti Mariano, a Broadway veteran whose credits include original productions of The Music Man, Bye Bye Birdie, and 42nd Street). Musical direction, arrangements, some vocals and accompaniment are provided by David Hancock Turner, who has appeared onstage at the Fort in I'm Getting My Act Together, Forever Plaid, and Corn! The Musical.

Songwriter Johnny Mercer, one of the founders of Capitol Records, wrote lyrics for more than 1,500 songs, for Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and film (19 Oscar nominations; four wins). For his first hit (1936), "I'm an Old Cowhand," Mercer wrote both music and lyrics. His last hit (1984) was written eight years after his death, from lyrics that his widow sent to composer Barry Manilow: "When October Goes" was recorded by Manilow, Nancy Wilson, and Rosemary Clooney. In between, the hits included "One for My Baby," "Autumn Leaves," and "Moon River."

In Echoing Back, the title derived from a line in "Blues in the Night," the five performers highlight moments in Mercer's career, with a few stories about the man; but, mostly, the songs tell it all. The musical styles change, dependent upon his collaborators, including Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Harry Warren (42nd Street), Henry Mancini, and Manilow. The revue, previewed only once before, at the Actors' Home in Englewood, N.J., comes to Fort Salem's cabaret in anticipation of an off-off Broadway run, continuing the Fort's introducing to the world shows that have opened in Salem prior to runs off-Broadway and in Manhattan's toniest cabarets.

The final entry in the Songwriter Series, on April 27, features Kathleen Devine, Florence Hayle, and Lynne Kerr as Beautiful Girls: A Celebration of Sondheim's Women, a revue of the most accessible of Stephen Sondheim's songs.

"Echoing Back" plays one night only. Reservations are seriously recommended for all of the Fort's cabarets, as seating is limited by law. Doors open at 7:30 for coffee and dessert, with an 8 p.m. curtain. (518) 854-9200


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