(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Time, 4/4; via Pam Green; Photo: John Kander at home on the Upper West Side. His latest Broadway production, “New York, New York,” is scheduled to open April 26.Credit…Vincent Tullo for The New York Times.)
The 96-year-old composer of “Chicago” and “Cabaret” is making a brand-new start of it with “New York, New York,” his 16th Broadway musical.
It’s not that John Kander wasn’t touched by John Kander Day. The composer of the song “New York, New York” — played at every Yankees home game and known worldwide from its first five notes — was obviously moved when the city’s mayor handed him a framed proclamation in front of the St. James Theater in Midtown Manhattan. Nor was he jaded, he later said, about having that block of West 44th Street, from Broadway to Eighth Avenue, christened Kander & Ebb Way in recognition of his work and that of Fred Ebb, his longtime lyricist, who died in 2004.
Still, of Kander’s thousands of songs, seven movie scores and 20 major musicals, including “Chicago” and “Cabaret,” not one bar was written with the idea of getting a piece of pavement named for him. If Ebb, with his brasher, needier personality, would have eaten up the honor, Kander seems at best to withstand it, embarrassed by too much attention or praise. He is so militantly unassuming that the highest compliment he will pay himself is the one his mother used to offer: “A horse can’t do any better.”