Breman Museum, Theatrical Outfit Celebrate ‘Wizard Of Oz’ Composer

Songwriter Harold Arlen, composer of standards such as “Over The Rainbow” and “The Man That Got Away” is pictured, Jan. 1968. (AP Photo)

Associated Press

“Over The Rainbow” is one of the most beloved songs of the 20th century, but its composer, Harold Arlen, hasn’t received the same acclaim as his contemporaries like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer.

To amend that, the Breman Museum in collaboration with Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit is dedicating a special concert to Arlen, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Music of Harold Arlen.” It is part of the Molly Blank Jewish Concert series and will include storytelling, dance and plenty of song.

New York-based director and writer Adam Koplan wrote the show. Theatrical Outfit’s Greg Sudmeier is the music director for the program.

Sudmeier suggested that one reason Arlen is not a household name is because he worked with a large variety of performers.

“Essentially, Harold didn’t build his brand because he worked with so many varied lyricists … they kind of shared the spotlight,” he said.

But Sudmeier said that music itself is able to capture the human experience.

“This music gets into the DNA,” he said.

Arlen started his life in New York writing revues, or multi-act shows that combined music, dance and sketches. He was also a house composer for the Cotton Club. During his career as a composer, he wrote over 400 songs for the “Great American Songbook,” and of course, “The Wizard of Oz.”

“There’s something that music in [“Over the Rainbow”] that is able to capture yearning, suffering, dreaming, joy and also possibilities,” said Koplan.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow: the Music of Harold Arlen” begins at 5 p.m. this Sunday at the Breman Museum in Atlanta.