Honoring Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé with a ‘A Toast to Steve & Eydie’ and a donation to NYC’s Carnegie Hall

At a private invitation-only reception held on Wednesday, February 14, at Carnegie Hall’s Susan W. Rose Archives, The Lawrence Family Foundation honored the legendary husband-and-wife singing duo Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé with a generous contribution to the Carnegie Hall Endowment Fund in support of NYO Jazz, one of the iconic venue’s three acclaimed national youth ensembles, comprising outstanding young musicians, ages 16–19, from across the US.

The special Valentine’s Day event also offered a preview of the upcoming one-night-only musical performance A Toast to Steve & Eydie, co-starring their son and Emmy-nominated composer David Lawrence and Tony winner Debbie Gravitte, to be presented by TalentScouts Entertainment in association with group5productions at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on Monday, March 18. Written by Robert L. Freedman and Faye Greenberg and directed by Lonny Price and Matt Cowart, with musical direction by Tedd Firth, the show will celebrate the legendary couple’s personal history – the two met when they were hired as regulars on The Tonight Show, then hosted by Steve Allen, and their courtship played out against the backdrop of the early days of television, culminating in their marriage in 1957 – and their long and illustrious career, spanning more than 50 years of performing together on records, in concerts, on Broadway, film, and television, and winning multiple Emmy and Grammy Awards, a Tony nomination, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Debbie Gravitte and David Lawrence. Photo by Ray Costello.

In their Zankel Hall debut, David and Debbie, accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra, will perform some of Steve & Eydie’s most famous hits, with the original orchestrations, including such mid-century standards from the canon of the Great American Songbook as “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” “I Gotta Be Me,” “If He Walked Into My Life,” “Together, Wherever We Go,” and “Cheek To Cheek.” I asked them if they had one favorite number, in a set list of nothing but classic hits, that they most look forward to performing, and David gave me an immediate “Yes. It’s ‘A Room without Windows’ from the 1964 Broadway production of What Makes Sammy Run?,” which earned his father a Tony nomination. “It’s as good as it gets,” he said, and then, to give equal time to his mother, added that he also loves the song “Guess What I Saw Today,” originally composed for the Broadway musical revue New Faces of 1952 and recorded by Eydie in 1957 (“But that doesn’t count,” he joked, since he doesn’t sing it).

David Lawrence. Photo by Ray Costello.
Debbie Gravitte. Photo by Ray Costello.

Debbie told me it was hard to pick just one, noting that so much of it is about the orchestrations, so she narrowed it down to three: “I Wanna Be Around” with orchestrations by the great Don Costa, which always makes her think, “How did I get here? I have arrived!” when she sings it; “If He Walked into My Life,” released by Eydie in 1968, which, she feels, “is instantly recognizable to the audience” even before she starts to sing; and “We Got Us,” the title song of Steve & Eydie’s 1960 album and a duet she performs with David, who, she exclaimed, is “so much fun!” Their obvious love of the music and rapport with each other is guaranteed to make for a fabulous concert that will be very much in the spirit of his parents.

Sandy Stewart and David Lawrence. Photo by Ray Costello.
Clive Gillinson and David Lawrence. Photo by Deb Miller.

Also in attendance at the special event was jazz and cabaret singer Sandy Stewart, who was a good friend and colleague of the honored couple, and also speaking at the reception were Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson and Founding Archivist and Former Backstage Attendant Gino Francesconi, who, along with David Lawrence, made introductory comments about the historic venue and its programs, and shared their personal stories and appreciation of Steve & Eydie, who numbered among the few artists to perform there frequently (most were booked for one-night-only events), never failing to attract a large audience.

William Schwartzman and Emma Lacey. Photo by Ray Costello.

And representing NYO Jazz were two young musicians and alumni of the program, saxophonist Emma Lacey from suburban Massachusetts and pianist William Schwartzman from LA, now college students at Julliard, who expressed to me their love of NYC, which he considers “inarguably the mecca of jazz music,” and where, she said, “the live music is so much more inspired than anywhere else” and “the experience is like no other.” They ended our conversation with gratitude for The Lawrence Family Foundation’s donation to the Carnegie Hall Endowment Fund, which, Emma believes, “is so important to keeping the future of music alive and in good hands,” and William considers “essential to keeping an incredible group of like-minded students focused on their shared love of music. It’s heaven!”

A Toast to Steve & Eydie plays on Monday, March 18, 7:30 pm, at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, NYC. For tickets (priced at $59-129, plus fees), call (212) 247-7800, or go online.



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