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Broadway theaters to dim lights in memory of Sheldon Harnick

The Tony Award-winning lyricist behind “Fiddler on the Roof” and “She Loves Me” passed away in June.

Sheldon Harnick (Credit: Margery Gray Harnick)

The Broadway League has announced that the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim marquee lights in memory of Tony Award-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Broadway’s 41 theaters will go dark in Harnick’s honor on Nov. 9 at 6:45 p.m. for one minute.

Harnick passed away on June 23 at the age of 99. The lyricist earned his first Broadway credit in 1952 with “Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1952,” which featured songs with lyrics by Harnick. He followed that by contributing songs to Main Stem revues “Two’s Company,” “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac” and “The Littlest Revue.” Harnick rose to acclaim with the 1959 musical “Fiorello!” about Mayor Fiorella La Guardia; the show won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Tony Award for Best Musical, marking Harnick’s first Tony win (at that point in Tony Awards history, the Best Musical award included the book writer, composer and lyricist, along with the show’s producers). 

Harnick continued to work on Broadway as the lyricist on 1960’s “Tenderloin” and 1963’s puppet-driven musical “Man in the Moon.” Harnick next wrote the lyrics to 1963’s “She Loves Me,” which was nominated for the Tony for Best Musical. Harnick won a Grammy for his work on the original cast album of “She Loves Me,” which was honored as the Best Musical Theater Album in 1964. 

That same year, the show that would be most closely linked to Harnick’s name debuted on Broadway: “Fiddler on the Roof.” With “Fiddler,” Harnick won two more Tonys: again for Best Musical, and in the Best Composer and Lyricist category with his writing partner, composer Jerry Bock. “Fiddler” was adapted into a movie musical in 1971; the film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture. The musical has been revived on Broadway five times.

Harnick created theater for many more decades, writing musicals such as “The Apple Tree,” “The Rothschilds” and “Rex.” His lyrics were featured in “The Madwoman of Central Park West,” “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” “Cyrano — The Musical,” the Harold Prince revue “Prince of Broadway” and more. 

In 2015, the album “Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures” was released, featuring more than 50 demos written for Harnick’s shows. 

“Sheldon Harnick was one of Broadway’s most profound lyricists and his songs are part of Broadway tradition,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, in a statement. “His work on ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ created immediate and beloved classics. Songs such as ‘Tradition’; ‘Sunrise, Sunset’; and ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ helped make the show one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals in history at the time. Generations of audiences continue to be inspired by his lyrics which evoke so much emotion and brilliantly bring powerful stories to life.”