Among his musicals, he wrote the lyrics for Rex, the last show that Richard Rodgers composed the score for. It starred Nicol Williamson as Henry VIII, and only had a short run of 49 performances, and was never included in the Rodgers and Hammerstein company's catalog. However, a couple of years ago, Harnick and the show's book writer Sherman Yellen revisited the show and did some extensive rewriting on it. They'd always envisioned the show as a small piece, but thanks in part to the musical's notoriously difficult star, it kept expanding. The new version of Rex finally was re-mounted in Toronto in 2010 to quite respectable reviews -- and it was at last added to the R&H catalog.
One of the songs that was cut from the original production was called The Pears of Anjou, a number that Harnick loved. It came at the end of the show, as Henry knew he was dying, and Williamson didn't want to sing it. When the show was re-written, Harnick added it back in.
The song concerns a gift that King Henry had gotten from the King of France, a pear tree from the Anjou region, known for its particularly luscious fruit. The French king tells Henry that it takes 10 years for the tree to grow. In Henry's final song, he sings of his wish to taste one of those pears -- though as Harnick has pointed out, the real meaning of the song is that Henry wants those 10 more years of life, to have that chance.
In the liner notes to the terrific double-CD, Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures, released last year on his 90th birthday (more about that later), he writes in the liner notes that not just he but Richard Rodgers was especially saddened to cut the song in the original production. He surmised that Rodgers, not in the best of health -- he died not long after the show opened -- perhaps empathized a great deal with the number.
And here's the song. It's made all the more of a treat since it's performed (wonderfully) just a few years ago by today's birthday celebrant himself.