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Jeff Harner Is Back at The Laurie Beechman Theater With I Know Things Now: My Life in Sondheim’s Words

Jeff Harner Is Back at The Laurie Beechman Theater With I Know Things Now: My Life in Sondheim’s Words

Jeff Harner – the award-winning nightclub and concert artist – will celebrate his new PS Classics album I Know Things Now: My Life in Sondheim’s Words with an encore concert engagement at The Laurie Beechman Theater in New York for two Sunday night performances on September 18 at 7:00 PM and September 25 at 4:00 PM. In addition to music director Jon Weber on piano, Harnar will be joined by Steve Doyle on bass and Ray Marchica on drums. Harnar will also perform a special show at Middle C Jazz in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, September 20. The album, which is currently available on CD and digital formats, boasts a 20-piece orchestra conducted by renowned jazz piano virtuoso Jon Weber (host of NPR’s “Piano Jazz”) and is produced by Bart Migal, with Ronald Thomas serving as executive producer. It is currently available on Amazon.com. Tickets to Jeff’s concerts are available at JeffHarnar.com.

For the show’s inaugural engagement in June, the New York Sun called the evening “singularly special, subtle but radical and, simple but effective.” Times Square Chronicles raved “If you can only attend one cabaret show, I Know Things Now is the one. This was one of the smartest, freshest shows I have ever attended and it gave me a whole new comprehension of Stephen Sondheim’s words and music.” Theater Pizzazz heralded the concert as “a musical suite put together with a joyous intelligence, a truly remarkable one-man event.” According to BroadwayWorldI Know Things Now is “a thing of wonder, a show of powerful storytelling, and one of the best nights of cabaret likely to be found right now – unforgettable, impeccable, and completely original.”

Jeff Harner heard the story of his own life in the songs of the late Stephen Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist known for changing the landscape of musical theater. Harnar wove over 25 Sondheim songs — from familiar anthems like “Being Alive” and “Losing My Mind” to rarities like Dick Tracy’s “Live Alone and Like It” and “More” — into an original narrative, reimagining them for an LGBT+ audience and creating a self-portrait of a proudly gay New Yorker in the contemporary world. Weber,  serving as conductor and orchestrator, recast the songs in a jazz idiom: a radical reinvention of Sondheim’s harmonies, one that the composer himself — upon seeing the show onstage — not only endorsed but encouraged. Now, PS Classics, Sondheim’s label of choice for his final two decades, offers another jewel in its Sondheim crown: a highly original and personal celebration of the artist’s

“The words and music are Sondheim’s … but the story is mine,” Harnar says. “This is virtually the only line in my own words when I perform the show. The evening is unique in that it is sung-through, with almost every word from my mouth a Sondheim lyric.  And yet, the piece could not be more personal. In the words of Sondheim, ‘What more do I need?’ This is a unique experience for me, as it is my first solo show sung as an openly gay man, honestly sharing my story and my heart … with the correct pronouns.  For the first time the songs I’ve chosen, many originally introduced by women, are clearly being sung to and about the men in my life.”

“My creative team on the project are a dream collaboration,” Harnar adds. “Our music director, orchestrator and conductor, Jon Weber, has brought a jazz vocabulary to the textures of these songs that is uniquely fresh.” The stage version of I Know Things Now is directed by the Broadway legend Sondra Lee, who originated the roles of Tiger Lily opposite Mary Martin’s Peter Pan and Minnie Faye opposite Carol Channing’s Dolly Levi. Harnar remembers: “Sondra has been a name on my lips since my childhood, when Mary Martin would fly into our living room in the first color broadcasts of Peter Pan. That she is now, at age 91, bringing her wisdom and guidance to my work is a miracle in my life.”

Harnar has been honing this program with performances in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, New York and London. “Thus far Jon and I have been performing as a duo,” he comments. “For the album we have 2o players, all superb Broadway pit musicians, bringing to life the arrangements Jon and I created, and that he has orchestrated so imaginatively. This is my first solo album in 17 years, and the first that I’ve created from the beginning with the album’s producers, PS Classics’ Tommy Krasker and Bart Migal. It’s been a master class having their guidance. They worked closely with Mr. Sondheim on over a dozen of his cast albums — not to mention his two solo discs — so there simply couldn’t be better guides.”

“On a personal note,” Jeff concludes, “Tommy and I are pleased that my previous PS Classics album, the 2005 release Dancing in the Dark – recorded in my forties – will now have a resolution with this album, I Know Things Now, recorded in my sixties. We both know the statements in this new album couldn’t have been made at any earlier point in my life. At the time of his death, Sondheim was aware and supportive of this endeavor and was looking forward to hearing the rough mixes. In the last email Mr. Sondheim sent me, written 16 days before he passed, he signed off with, ‘Thank you for doing the show – Steve.’”

Cabaret

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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