ALAN JAY LERNER by Edward Jablonski


A Biography
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 Serviceable biography of a noted Broadway and film lyricist/librettist. Born the son of a department store mogul, Lerner had the luxury to pursue a life in the theater. Luck brought him into contact with Viennese-born composer Frederick Loewe at New York's legendary theatrical hangout, the Lambs Club, in the mid-'40s. Loewe had had some minor hits, but success had eluded him; he was looking for a new partner to pump some life into his work. The two worked together on a series of shows, hitting pay dirt with the 1947 fantasy Brigadoon. Lerner was a compulsive worker, while Loewe was happy to enjoy his newfound success; over the next decade and a half, the two would collaborate on two more successful shows, My Fair Lady and Camelot, while Lerner filled the gaps by working (less successfully) with other composers, including Kurt Weill and Burton Lane, as well as keeping himself occupied writing scripts in Hollywood. After Camelot, Loewe happily went into semi-retirement; confounded, Lerner worked on a number of ill-begotten projects, beginning with the overblown On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. The failures kept coming through the '70s and '80s, while Lerner's personal life followed its rocky path, marked by a series of quickly consummated and ultimately unsuccessful marriages. Lerner succumbed to cancer in 1986. Jablonski (Gershwin, 1987, etc.) is an able writer and knows how to hold a reader's interest. Realizing that Lerner's life story is less uplifting than the story of his hits, he wisely focuses on the shows, glossing over the more troublesome aspects of the biography. Jablonski offers salient critiques of the major Lerner productions, including close readings of the songs, the libretti, and a complete run-down of the production histories. However, he relies on the standard literature in retelling Lerner's life, barely moving beyond a handful of well-known sources for further insights. (32 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-4076-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995