In this award-intensive season, kudos tend to go to artists at the peak of their careers. Not so the Kleban Awards, bestowed by a foundation established by the late Edward Kleban, who won a 1976 Tony for his lyrics for A Chorus Line. The substantial prize - $100,000 for two recipients, deemed "the most promising" lyricist and librettist - is essentially seed money. Past awardees, such as Michael John LaChiusa, David Lindsay-Abaire, Michael Korie, and John Weidman, have more than made good. At the private ceremony for the 19th annual Kleban Awards, held June 1 at BMI headquarters in New York, this year's winners, Beth Falcone and Kait Kerrigan, treated the select assemblage to samples of their work - excerpts from, respectively, "Wanda's World," about a high-school misfit, and "Henry & Mudge," about a boy and his 182- pound dog.
Richard Maltby, Jr., incoming president of the Kleban board, recalled his penurious days as an aspiring Broadway songwriter newly transplanted from the Midwest, where he could get away with rhyming "your" and "amour." Show-business lesson number one, in his experience, was "Nobody wants what a lyricist does- at least, no one is willing to pay for it." Now, he marveled, "You sing a song and someone gives you a giant check." Depends on the song, clearly. Falcone and Kerrigan are now officially on the wait-and-listen list.