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Jamie Bernstein – Narrator
Amy Burton – Soprano
Michael Boriskin and John Musto – Piano
Conceived of by George Steel
Written by George Steel and Jamie Bernstein
Produced by Copland House
“Late Night with Leonard Bernstein” is an affectionate portrait of the personal side of one of the twentieth-century’s most charismatic public figures. Hosted by his daughter Jamie and featuring three stellar performers—soprano Amy Burton and pianists John Musto and Michael Boriskin—this acclaimed Copland House production celebrates Bernstein’s nonstop creativity and the entertaining he did at all-hours at home. A well-known insomniac for whom night was a time for creativity and friendship, deep introspection, and revelry, Bernstein worked incessantly, often dazzling friends and guests until daybreak with captivating performances across a wide range of musical styles.
This delectable multimedia cabaret traces Bernstein’s journey back to his years as a prodigiously gifted undergraduate who loved jazz, classics, and thorny modernists with equal passion as well as his early efforts as an aspiring composer and arranger of musicals, dance, and pop novelties. Several of his most intimate works are performed, along with some of his favorite compositions by Aaron Copland, Noel Coward, Zez Confrey, Franz Schubert, Edvard Grieg, Ernesto Lecuona, and others. Brief audio and video excerpts of the maestro himself are among the program’s many highlights. The evening was created by Bernstein protégé George Steel and is woven together through the warmhearted, revealing script by Steel and Jamie Bernstein and a video slide show of rare photographs of the legendary artist and his family, friends, and colleagues. As the New York Times noted, “Here were lots of little surprises . . . early bits of aborted projects that later surfaced, re-imagined, in famous works like West Side Story and Mass; a tongue-twisting parody [of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony] by Bernstein‘s buddy Adolph Green; a film clip of Bernstein at the piano, singing a Marc Blitzstein novelty number.”
Probably the most haimisch two hours (to borrow from the Yiddish for “homey”) anyone will spend in the presence of the composer-conductor-musical explainer this centenary year.
For a concept that could easily have devolved into shtick, this struck the right balance between biographical portraiture, charming nostalgia, and loving remembrance.