Famous for his bitchy film criticism, Fort Worth-born Rex Reed  turns his eye (and his ear) to music with Ira Gershwin revue

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Film critic Rex Reed
GAGA FOR GERSHWIN | Film critic Rex Reed prefers his love of Ira Gershwin’s music to reviewing the ghastly movies coming out today.

Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. $39–$72.


Watching too many movies can be a bad thing. After years of deconstructing films and either ripping them apart or praising their genius, Rex Reed has finally had enough. For now at least.

“You have no idea of the crap I sit through. Movies today are ghastly,” Reed says. “I gotta get out of this rut. Everybody has to do something in life that’s a little bit of fun and I love this a million times more than reviewing.“

“This” refers to The Man that Got Away: Ira without George — The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, a show Reed created to celebrate the work of the lesser-known songwriting brother. The production makes its first stop outside of New York in North Texas Nov. 12 at the Eisemann Center.

“This show is a celebration of his genius,” he says. “I feel this kind of music is our culture; it’s America’s greatest gift to this world and it’s in danger of disappearing.”

Along for the ride with Reed are performers Tom Wopat, Marilyn Maye and Susan Mays, who sing songs from Gershwin’s catalog. They help Reed do his part in preserving a part of American culture, in which he gave preferential treatment to his favorite lyricist. He created this show to bring Ira from under his brother’s shadow, despite Ira having the longer career. But with George’s huge signature pieces, Reed still has to remind people that they aren’t going to get what they think they came for. Either that, or they don’t know the difference between the two siblings.

“George has always had his share of fame and praise even though he rarely made a move without his brother,” he says. “It was time he got his fair share. This is not about George. We’re not gonna have Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess. This is all Ira on his own.”

When Reed met younger sister Francis Gershwin, he discussed his plans for the show. As it turned out, she felt it was time.

“She gave me her full blessing,” he says. “When I met her she said, ‘This is what I’ve been praying for. I’m so glad you’re doing this.’ That was that; it was amen and here we go, after that. I’m really hoping people in Dallas will like it.”

This concerns Reed. He begins asking questions about the venue, knowing that it isn’t in Dallas proper — and he wonders if there is an appreciation for American standards. He senses a hunger for this music and figures it deserves to be exposed. He even challenges LGBT audiences, hoping they will break away from the usual listening pleasures.

“As a rule, gay people have always had better taste, they just need to be exposed to this,” he says. “It could expose LGBTs to something higher in quality than the stuff they are hearing in discos. That can just go so far. I don’t go to these places where I hear eardrum bursting second-rate music.”

The challenge though is to move people out of their musical comfort zone by heading to the past. Like Michael Feinstein, who comes to Dallas later this month, Reed finds it important to preserve this musical heritage of America. That’s his mission — besides reviewing films.

“I applaud Michael for what he’s doing. When people hear this, I hope a light bulb goes off,” he says. “If it’s not in top 40, they’re afraid to listen. I just need to get them to move beyond the fear of discovering the unknown.”

But he does give fair warning: Reed hosts the show but also sings one Gershwin tune.

“There is an awful lot of me in it! So if you don’t like me, don’t come.”
He’s kidding.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.