(Above:  A performance by students of the Musical Theatre Training Academy at The Shedd Institute for the Arts. Participants in the ninth musical revue, to be presented on March 18, will feature the work of Yip Harburg, who among other things wrote the lyrics for the songs in “The Wizard of Oz.”)

By Randi Bjornstad

For the past several years, The Shedd Institute for the Arts has run a series of 10-week Musical Theatre Training Academy sessions for high school age performers to hone their singing, acting and dancing skills.

Each training course is taught by local and guest professionals. At the end of each session, the troupe puts on a show, and the ninth one will be onstage for two performances in The Shedd’s Jaqua Concert Hall on Sunday, March 18, in a show called, simply, “The Revue.”

This revue is special because it features the work of a lyricist whose identity should be much more of a household name than it is.

Hochberg to Harburg

E.Y. Harburg, better known as Yip, wrote the lyrics for favorite films such as “The Wizard of Oz” — including, of course, the all-famous “Over the Rainbow” —  as well as “Cabin in the Sky” and “Finian’s Rainbow.”

Perhaps less well-known, Harburg also wrote the lyrics for the 1939 Marx Brothers musical comedy, “At the Circus.”

Some of his other familiar songs include “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe,” and “April in Paris.”

Harburg — the E.Y. stands for Edgar Yipsel — was born in New York City on April 8, 1896, to Russian Jewish parents. His birth name was Isadore Hochberg, which he changed later.

He met and became lifelong friends with Ira Gershwin in school and through his life rubbed elbows with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern and many famous names on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Harburg and Arlen shared the 1939 Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for “The Wizard of Oz,” and he was nominated twice more, for “Cabin in the Sky” in 1943 and “Can’t Help Singing,” with Jerome Kern, in 1944.

Harburg’s career suffered during the anti-Communist fervor of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his House Unamerican Activities Committee of the 1950s. Although Harburg considered himself a socialist, he vigorously denied any allegiance to the Communist Party.

He died in 1981, on March 5, 1981, in a head-on collision on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Cast and crew

The cast for The Shedd’s tribute to Harburg includes 12 youth performers from Eugene, Springfield, and Pleasant Hill: George Butterick V, Rogan Decalesta,  Kate Fairbairn, Johanna Gilbert, Eddie Hewitt, Nathanial McDonald, Matthew Michael, Hannah Murphy, Morgan Murphy, Oshen Parris Austin, Samuel Rose, and Rachel Schuck.

The creative team includes director Dylan Stasack; faculty members and choreographers Lynnea Barry and Caitlin Christopher; music director and accompanist Vicki Brabham; with Cosmo Cole and Chris Lewis in charge of tech, sound and lights; costuming by Jamie Parker and Heidi Turnquist; production managers Kristina Gribskov and Bev Vazquez; set and props by Stasack and Turnquist, who also serves as stage manager

The program

Act 1:

Life Begins  (1934, from Life Begins at 8:40)

It’s Only A Paper Moon (1933, from The Great Magoo)

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? (1932, from Americana)

April In Paris (1934, from Walk a Little Faster)

I Like the Likes of You (1934, from the Ziegfield Follies of 1934)

Let’s Takea Walk Around the Block (1934, from Life Begins at 8:40)

Down With Love (1937, from Hooray for What!)

Over The Rainbow (1939, from The Wizard of Oz)

If I Only Had A Brain/Heart, etc. (1939, from The Wizard of Oz)

We’re Off To See The Wizard (1939, from The Wizard of Oz)

Act 2:

I’ll Take Tallulah (1942, from Ship Ahoy)

Lydia The Tattooed Lady (1939, from At the Circus)

Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe (1943, from Cabin in the Sky)

When the Boys Come Home (1944, from Bloomer Girl)

How are Things in Glocca Morra?  (1947, from Finian’s Rainbow)

Old Devil Moon (1947, from Finian’s Rainbow)

The Great ‘Come-and-Get-It’ Day (1947, from Finian’s Rainbow)

Over the Rainbow  (1939, from The Wizard of Oz)


Over The Rainbow: The Songs of Yip Harburg

When: 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 18

Where: Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High St. in downtown Eugene

Tickets: $10 (cabaret-stye reserved seating with open bars in the lobby during each show), available at the box office, 541-434-7000, or online at theshedd.org/; (discounts available for groups, youths, and ticket packages)