Grammy, Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner Sheldon Harnick will be forever grateful to the Goodspeed for several reasons.
And one of them is rebuilding his friendship with composer and his well-known late collaborator, Jerry Bock.
“We had had a falling out and ended up working together again on a production that played at the Goodspeed and it brought back the friendship,” said the much younger than 90-year-old looking Harnick. Harnick was in Connecticut Friday to receive the Goodspeed Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre at its Razzle Dazzle Gala at the Madison Beach Club. “The Goodspeed has a lot of wonderful memories for me.”
“Fiddler on the Roof,” one of a host Harnick/Bock musical collaborations that also included “Fiorello!,” “The Body Beautiful” and “She Loves Me,” will celebrate its 50th anniversary as the featured summer production at the Goodspeed this month.
“We worried when we worked on that musical,” admitted Harnick, about the iconic play about a traditional Jewish family in the midst of cultural change. “We worried because it was about a Jewish family so as we developed it we tried to put the emphasis on universal values like love, family and freedom. I think we did a good job.”
The evening was particularly celebratory for a lot of reason besides Harnick’s appearance. Also attending the gala were actor Tony Roberts, who presented the award to Harnick, and actor Adam Heller, who will play the role of Tevye in the Goodspeed production of “Fiddler.”
It was also a night a new branding for the gala that benefits the Goodspeed’s education program.
Like other major galas, the annual soiree will now always be known each year as “Razzle Dazzle.”
“We wanted it to have an identity and we want to move it around, not just hold it in Middlesex country,” said trustee and gala chair Marcia Kalayjian.
For retiring executive director Michael Price, Friday’s gala marked his last as the longtime head of the theater.
“I’ll still be coming to this even after I leave,” he said. “It’s sad to be stepping down,” he grinned. “But I don’t like to talk about it.”