re: 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE Title Change
Posted by: Erik_Haagensen 04:28 pm EDT 04/19/24
In reply to: 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE Title Change - BroadwayTonyJ 02:48 pm EDT 04/19/24

Neither Jamie Bernstein nor Alan Jay Lerner's daughter (Liza or Jenny) was involved in the decision to create THE WHITE HOUSE CANTATA. That decision was made by two men: Paul Epstein and Schuyler Chapin, who, with Harry Kraut, had decision-making power for the Bernstein estate at the time (Kraut agreed with me but was outvoted). They chose to suppress the musical completely (the Bernstein estate will no longer allow it to be performed) and create the cantata in its stead.

Leonard Bernstein, by contrast, wanted to resurrect 1600 as a musical play and was working to do so when he died in 1990. He got Lerner to hand the rights over to him, allowing Bernstein to hire a new book writer and a new lyricist to make revisions (I've seen the letter signed by Lerner; in it he asks nevertheless to be considered to be chosen as the author for any lyric rewrites/new lyrics, a request rendered moot by his death in 1986). Bernstein approached Gore Vidal to write a new book, but he declined. Bernstein never said that he didn't want the show performed under its original title, or the estate wouldn't have used it in 1992. What Bernstein didn't want was for the show to be performed in the version that opened on Broadway (he hated all the out-of-town changes), something in which Lerner concurred, which is why the two men put a kibosh on the cast recording (which Capitol Records was prepared to issue despite the show's quick demise). Neither man wanted the show preserved for history in that form, which had strayed so far from their original intentions. This is why I was asked by the Bernstein estate to reconstruct the script and score that premiered in Philadelphia in 1976.

Bernstein had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of THE WHITE HOUSE CANTATA. By the time it was conceived and created, he was long dead. His vision of the show was always as a musical play with a book. When I was asked to create the cantata, I was told that I would have to eliminate all the contemporary political material, spoken and sung, along with the rest of the book. It's one of the reasons I declined the job. It is not what the authors, Bernstein or Lerner, wanted. Indeed, it's pretty close to what was done for Broadway, which resulted in fiasco.

In any event, the title THE WHITE HOUSE CANTATA had nothing to do with any wishes of Leonard Bernstein, and he never proscribed the use of the title 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.

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