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The Art of the Lyricist

Clarke Peters investigates the art of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and other musical theatre wordsmiths through the BBC archive.

In a programme first broadcast in 2016 to mark the 60th anniversary of the musical "My Fair Lady", the actor and singer Clarke Peters explores the career and legacy of its lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and investigates the art of lyricists in general through the BBC archive.

Alan Jay Lerner often said that he sweated for weeks to write a lyric for a song. His words highlighted the struggle that he and the other legendary wordsmiths of musical theatre had as they sought to hone the right words to fit their collaborator's music - words which would sometimes translate into the vernacular and speech of generations afterwards - expressions like "Get me to the Church on Time" (Lerner) or "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (Sondheim).

The programme explores the art of Alan Jay Lerner and the other musical theatre lyricists which fill the BBC archives. Many of the songwriting greats are there - Yip Harburg, writer of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", Dorothy Fields (lyric writer of the hit show "Sweet Charity") and the great Oscar Hammerstein. There are there are the artists who delivered both words and music - including Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim. And there are the surprises- figures like PG. Wodehouse who, as well as writing the famous "Jeeves" books, also wrote lyrics for musical theatre.

There are also new interviews with the lyricist Charles Hart (writer of words for "Phantom of the Opera" and more recently "Bend it like Beckham"), Millie Taylor, Professor of Musical Theatre at Winchester University and Alan Jay Lerner expert Dominic McHugh.

Clarke Peters who's sung in many musicals and written the book for "Five Guys Named Moe" presents this journey of crafting the words for the perfect musical theatre song. He explores the pleasures and pitfalls of a lyricist's life and, in the company of Lerner and many others, takes the listener through from first thought to the opening night.

Producer: Emma Kingsley.

Available now

58 minutes

Last on

Sat 20 May 2017 20:00