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Three Nights of Song to Celebrate Legendary Johnny Mercer June 24-27

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June 24, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Johnny Mercer, master of the American song, “A Centennial Celebration of Johnny Mercer” (June 24 to 27) will launch the 2009 Summer Music Theatre Festival at the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University.

The weeklong Mercer celebration includes three public concerts and an intensive five-day Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project for young aspiring songwriters from across the country, all held on the University’s Evanston campus. The Mercer festivities are presented by the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University in partnership with The Johnny Mercer Foundation.

“AMTP is co-presenting the Mercer celebration with the Johnny Mercer Foundation to honor the “dean” of the American music songbook,” said Dominic Missimi, professor of theatre and director of the School of Communication’s Music Theatre Program, executive director of the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern and the director of the June 27 Mercer celebration concert.

Best known as a lyricist, Mercer (1909-1976) is credited with writing 1,700 songs, including 90 for motion pictures, receiving four Academy Awards and 19 nominations. He wrote such memorable tunes as “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “I Remember You,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “One For My Baby,” “Satin Doll,” “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Glow Worm,” “Days Of Wine And Roses” and “Moon River.”

He also wrote six Broadway musicals, including “St. Louis Woman” (1946) and “Li’l Abner” (1956). In addition, he was a leading radio personality and recording artist, one of the founders and president of Capitol Records, and one of the creators of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. More than 30 years after his death, his songs can still be heard on recordings, tapes, compact discs, on the radio or television, in movies, on stage or in cabarets around the world.

“Not only are Mercer’s songs clever and delightful to perform, there is a wonderful and wholesome American quality that is identified with his repertoire,” said Missimi.

Missimi has invited Broadway stars Liz Callaway (“Merrily We Roll Along,” “Baby”) and Capathia Jenkins (“Caroline, or Change,” “Dreamgirls”) to headline the 8 p.m. Saturday, June 27 Johnny Mercer Celebration Concert at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall with performances from hit Broadway musicals, including “The Baker’s Wife,” “Baby,” “Cats,” “Chicago” and “Dreamgirls.” Callaway and Jenkins also will perform a duet of two Stephen Sondheim songs.

Master teachers from the 2009 Songwriters Project also will be featured on Saturday. Craig Carnelia (Tony Award-nominated composer and lyricist of “Sweet Smell of Success”), Lin Manuel-Miranda (Tony Award-winning creator of “In the Heights”) and Lari White (three-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter) will perform songs by Mercer, as well as their own compositions. In addition, the concert will feature performances by six Northwestern music theatre students, as well as students from the 2009 Songwriters Project.

In addition to his legendary songwriting career, Mercer was dedicated throughout his career to the development of young singers and songwriters, including such talented artists as Margaret Whiting, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project returns to Northwestern University for its fourth year. This June, 15 students will be participating in the weeklong project.

“The real soul of the annual Johnny Mercer Celebration is the development of young songwriters representing a variety of musical styles, including pop, music theater, folk, Latin and country,” said Missimi. “Every day they will write and compose new songs, present their material, have their works critiqued, and perform their songs during an intensive week of study. Working in collaboration with our award-winning team of 2009 Master Teachers, they will bring to our stages the next generation of great new American music.”

All three Mercer Centennial Celebration events are open to the public are available on a single-ticket basis only. They include:

Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Master Teacher Cabaret, “The Legacy of Johnny Mercer,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive. An intimate evening of song featuring the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project 2009 Master Teachers: Craig Carnelia, Tony Award-nominated composer and lyricist of “Sweet Smell of Success”; Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Award-winning creator of “In the Heights”; and Lari White, three-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter. Tickets are $10.

Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Songwriters Showcase, 8 p.m. Friday, June 26, Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive. An audience favorite, this evening of original music features the works of emerging songwriters from across the country who represent the fields of pop, music theatre, folk, Latin and country music. Tickets are $10.

Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Johnny Mercer Celebration Concert with guest artists Liz Callaway and Capathia Jenkins, 8 p.m. Saturday, June 27, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. A special one-night-only concert featuring Broadway stars Liz Callaway (“Merrily We Roll Along,” “Baby”) and Capathia Jenkins (“Caroline, or Change,” “Dreamgirls”) and celebrating the centennial of Mercer’s birth. The evening also features performances by Tony Award-nominated composer/lyricist Craig Carnelia, Tony Award-winning composer/performer Lin-Manuel Miranda and Grammy Award-winning Nashville singer/songwriter Lari White, as well as talented young songwriters participating in the Mercer Songwriters Project. The program will be directed by Dominic Missimi. Tickets are $30 for Festival subscribers, and $35 for the general public. The $10 tickets for full-time students with valid IDs will only be available on the day of the show, subject to ticket availability.

Subscriptions for the Summer Music Theatre Festival season are on sale now. Subscription pricing is $68 for the general public; $61 for seniors 65 and older, Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $24 for full-time students. This reflects a decrease in subscription pricing from last summer and a 20 percent discount on single ticket prices. Single tickets to all performances are currently available. For more information, call (847) 491-7282 or visit www.tic.northwestern.edu.
Topics: Campus Life