MUSIC THEATRE ‌ Strike Up The Band 

The Gershwins get an all-pro musical tribute

click to enlarge George and Ira Gershwin composed hummable tunes that enchanted America
  • George and Ira Gershwin composed hummable tunes that enchanted America
George Gershwin had already made his name in music — — as had his brother, Ira — when he chanced upon DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy in 1926. The Gershwin brothers, renowned on Broadway for their seamless mesh of lyrics and melodies, saw the operatic potential of the tale of the Gullah on Catfish Row and in that moment forged an everlasting bond with Charleston.

Porgy and Bess combined the talents of George and Ira with DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and since it first premiered on stage, "Summertime" has not been far from our lips.

The Gershwin brothers themselves, first generation Americans born in Brooklyn, had in their own lives a bit of the opera; the tumultuous sways, soaring winds, and thundering strikes. Much of their boyhood is inextricably interwoven with legend by now, but George was said to be the kid playing stickball, the gregarious type as fast to make friends as he was to get tugged home by the ear for running wild on the street, while Ira was the serious one, the bookworm.

George left school at 15 to plug songs on Tin Pan Alley. He was publishing only three years later and, after 1919, when Al Jolson sang his "Swanee," achieved his first real taste of fame. Ira took his own path as a lyricist, even briefly working under a pseudonym so as not to trade on George's fame, until the time came for their paths to converge and they became the fraternal songwriting team that redefined American musical theatre. Children of the jazz age, they composed numerous scores for Hollywood and Broadway, along the way elevating musical comedy to an art.

Fascinating Rhythm: A Musical Tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, produced by Serenade creators and Broadway performers Brad and Jennifer Moranz, captures the lives of George and Ira in a multimedia array of song, dance, comedy sketches, and archival photography. The orchestra is led by six-time Emmy-winning composer Lanny Meyers, and the show itself is written and narrated by Gershwin biographer and University of North Carolina at Wilmington professor Philip Furia.

Catch a Spoletian on the street humming a tune like "Our Love is Here To Stay," "Foggy Day," or "Rhapsody in Blue," and this is likely the show on her mind.

Expect the sounds of Fascinating Rhythm to mirror influences on and innovations of the Gershwin oeuvre, from Tin Pan Alley and Harlem stride to sea island shouts and gospel.

So make no mistake, this music comes as no stranger to our streets. Gershwin did his time at Folly Beach while composing Porgy and Bess, and the unmistakable sway of Lowcountry life is well woven into this easy livin' fabric.

FASCINATING RHYTHM: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO GEORGE AND IRA GERSHWIN • Piccolo Spoleto's Musical Theatre at the Charleston Music Hall • $29, $26 seniors/students • May 26, 27, 30 at 7:30 p.m.; May 27, 29 at 2 p.m.; May 28 at 3 p.m. • 2 hours • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060


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