Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peggy Herman, Jerry Herman, Ethel Merman...and John Fricke's latest project!

Happy Sunday! When I first heard that Peggy Herman was doing a new show after A VERY LOONNNGGGG absence, I was thrilled! I saw Peggy many years ago at Eighty-Eight's and became an instant fan. Then she disappeared. She got married, left New York, lost a LOT of weight!

She looks fabulous! She returned last night to The Metropolitan Room and I get to see her tonight!
Throw in Jerry Herman, Ethel Merman, Alex Rybeck, and Tommy Tune...I smell cabaret magic!

Peggy Herman is making a splashy return to performing in New York City in a new club act conceived and directed by Peter Glebo and the nine-time Tony Award-winner Tommy Tune. She debuts "Herman on Herman... with a Touch of Merman," a tribute to the Broadway legend Jerry Herman, at the Metropolitan Room at The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, tonight and tomorrow night(at 7pm), and Sunday June 5 at 4pm.
Music director Alex Rybeck accompanies on piano.
Hailed as "the Mt. St. Helen's of cabaret" by the NY Post, Herman has appeared at Town Hall, The Firebird Café, The King Kong Room, and Eighty Eights.
Peggy's career was launched at sea, where she performed on five-star cruise ships with Cunard, Royal Viking, Oceania, and Crystal Cruise Lines.

With her volcanic voice and personality Herman has been known to blow her audiences away.
Her solo CD debut, "Mercer and More..." (Original Cast Records), was hailed as "a lush album" by John Hoglund in Back Stage, where he added, "she's got a big voice that serves a big talent."
Speaking of the show's music, Herman says she's been working with her longtime music director and arranger Alex Rybeck on finding a balance between her favorite Jerry Herman standards, and some of his less-well-known material. Says Herman: "I wanted to explore the timelessness of these songs by taking them out of their original musical theatre context, outfitting them with new musical settings, and bringing a fresh contemporary sound to them."

For the record, Peggy Herman was married once before to Jerry Herman... the carpet salesman.Lake Success's Peggy Herman Klat is returning to performing in New York City after a brief hiatus with the enthusiasm of a kid executing a cannonball in the Lake Success Pool. After all, what could be splashier than a new club act conceived and directed by Peter Glebo and the nine-time Tony Award-winner Tommy Tune? The singer-actress, who makes her much-anticipated debut at Manhattan's popular Metropolitan Room, says that “Herman on Herman… with a Touch of Merman” has been in the works for close to a year.

“I’m like that plant that blooms once a year,” Herman muses, “except I get four nights instead of one!”

Throughout her interesting career, Herman had been told she was born to sing the songs of the incomparable Jerry Herman.
Then, interestingly enough, she met and married Jerry Herman. But not the three-time Tony Award-winning composer of "Hello Dolly!" "Mame," and "La Cage aux Folles."
The Jerry Herman of her dreams was a carpeting salesman who could barely hold a tune.

Now, many years after her split with the rug guy, Herman is making up for lost time with a vengeance.

"It's not a gimmick with the name," says Herman, who has been hailed by the NY Post as "the Mt. St. Helen's of cabaret."
"I was born to sing the songs of Jerry Herman. People have told me this all the time. I've always loved the drama and excitement of show stoppers, and 11 o'clock numbers, which are certainly his specialty." Adding that she also wanted to pay tribute to the legendary Ethel Merman, Herman calls this ménage a trois, "a happy marriage. Actually it's just a funny coincidence that Mr. Herman and I have the same name… and that it rhymes with Merman!"

Incidentally, Herman has been happily married to Dr. Alan Klat for the past 21 years.

Speaking of the show’s music, Herman says she’s been working with her longtime music director and arranger Alex Rybeck on finding a balance between her favorite Jerry Herman standards, and some of his less-well-known material.
Says Herman: “I wanted to explore the timelessness of these songs by taking them out of their original musical theatre context, outfitting them with new musical settings, and bringing a fresh contemporary sound to them.”
(Photo credit: JOE HENSON)

Helping her unshackle some of these songs from their sometimes predictable theatricality, in addition to Rybeck are the directors Peter Glebo and Tommy Tune. "But don't worry, we're not going to become analytical and conceptual all of a sudden. I didn't marry Sondheim!"

Herman, who was born in Philadelphia and raised in Miami Beach, has appeared at Town Hall, and such fabled Manhattan nightspots as The Firebird Café, The King Kong Room, and Eighty Eights. Her career was launched at sea, where she performed on five-star cruise ships with Cunard, Royal Viking, Oceania, and Crystal Cruise Lines.
This in turn led to a nightclub career, during which she opened for Phyllis Diller at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel, and, later on, for Bob Hope, Alan King and Milton Berle.

Her solo CD debut, "Mercer and More..." (Original Cast Records), which is available on, was hailed as “a lush album” by John Hoglund in Back Stage, where he added, “she’s got a big voice that serves a big talent.” And she does a mean cannonball!

I cannot wait to see her again tonight!

And to you, Mr. Tune:
Broadway Biography in Song & Dance featuring the Manhattan Rhythm Kings.

Nine-time Tony award-winner Tommy Tune God, do I love him!

Contact: Beck Lee (718) 403-0939

Before "Milk and Honey" and "Hello, Dolly!" made him a Broadway household name, Jerry Herman was busy working the showbiz trenches. His gifts as a composer, lyricist and musician were already mature in PARADE,a 1960 revue, available with the original cast recording, which included my dear friend, Dody Goodman!

Jerry Herman (born July 10, 1931) is an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway musical theater. He composed the scores for the hit Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly!.
(Here I am as Dolly Levi in The Revision Theatre's production of "HELLO, DOLLY!" om Asbury Park, NJ

Hello, Dolly! is a musical with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart (August 1, 1924 – September 20, 1987) an American playwright and librettist., based on Thornton Wilder's 1938 farce The Merchant of Yonkers, which Wilder revised and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955.
Hello, Dolly! was first produced on Broadway by David Merrick in 1964, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical and nine other Tonys. The show album Hello, Dolly! An Original Cast Recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.The show has become one of the most enduring musical theatre hits, enjoying three Broadway revivals and international success. It was also made into a 1969 film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

(John Barrowman performing 'I Won't Send Roses' from Mack and Mabel)

Thornton Niven Wilder (April 17, 1897 – December 7, 1975) was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.Wilder was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Amos Parker Wilder, a US diplomat, and Isabella Niven Wilder.
(Thornton Wilder as a child, pictured with his two sisters and his father Amos at family cottage at Maple Bluff, Wisconsin, 1900)

All of the Wilder children spent part of their childhood in China because of their father's work.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is Thornton Wilder's second novel, first published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim. It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse of an Inca rope-fiber suspension bridge in Peru, and the events that lead up to their being on the bridge.
A friar who has witnessed the tragic accident then goes about inquiring into the lives of the victims, seeking some sort of cosmic answer to the question of why each had to die. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928.
Thornton Wilder's older brother, Amos Niven Wilder, was Hollis Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, a noted poet, and foundational to the development of the field theopoetics. Amos was also a nationally ranked tennis player who competed at the Wimbledon tennis championships in 1922.
His youngest sister, Isabel Wilder, was an accomplished writer. Both of his other sisters, Charlotte Wilder, a poet, and Janet Wilder Dakin, a zoologist, attended Mount Holyoke College and were excellent students.

Additionally, Wilder had a sister and a twin brother, who died at birth.

Wilder began writing plays while at The Thacher School in Ojai, California, where he did not fit in and was teased by classmates as overly intellectual.

According to a classmate, "We left him alone, just left him alone. And he would retire at the library, his hideaway, learning to distance himself from humiliation and indifference." His family lived for a time in China, where his sister Janet was born in 1910. He attended the English China Inland Mission Chefoo School at Yantai but returned with his mother and siblings to California in 1912 because of the unstable political conditions in China at the time. Thornton also attended Creekside Middle School in Berkeley, and graduated from Berkeley High School in 1915. Wilder also studied law for two years before dropping out of Purdue University.

Mame, and La Cage aux Folles (for Jerry Herman)would come along later.
He has been nominated for the Tony Award five times, and won twice, for Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles.
In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He is a recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.

Raised in Jersey City by musically inclined parents, Herman learned to play piano at an early age, and the three frequently attended Broadway musicals.
His father, Harry, was a gym teacher and in the summer worked in the Catskill Mountains hotels.

His mother, Ruth, also worked in the hotels as a singer, pianist, and children's teacher, and eventually became an English teacher.
After marrying, they lived in Jersey City, New Jersey and continued to work in the summers in various camps until they became head counselors and finally ran Stissing Lake Camp in the Berkshire Mountains. Herman spent all of his summers there, from age 6 to 23.
It was at camp that he first became involved in theatrical productions, as director of Oklahoma!, Finian's Rainbow and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. At the age of 17, Herman was introduced to Frank Loesser who, after hearing material he had written, urged him to continue composing. He left the Parsons School of Design to attend the University of Miami, which has one of the nation's most avant garde theater departments.
He was also a member of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.After graduation from the University of Miami, Herman moved to New York City, where he produced the Off-Broadway revue I Feel Wonderful, which was made up of material he had written at the University.

It opened at the Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village on October 18, 1954 and ran for 48 performances. It was his only show his mother was able to see; shortly after it opened, she died of cancer at the age of forty-four, and Herman spent the next year in deep mourning.
In 1957, while playing piano at a New York City jazz club called the Showplace he was asked to write a show to replace one that had transferred (that show was Little Mary Sunshine). As well as supplying the music, Herman wrote the book and directed the one-hour revue, called Nightcap. He asked his friend, Phyllis Newman, to do movement and dance and it featured Charles Nelson Reilly (who later co-starred in Hello, Dolly!). The show opened in May 1958 and ran for two years.
Herman next collected enough original material to put together a revue called Parade in 1960. Herman directed with choreography by Richard Tone. The cast included Charles Nelson Reilly and Dody Goodman. It first opened at the Showplace and, expanded, moved to the Players Theatre in January 1960.During 1960, Herman also met playwright Tad Mosel and the two men collaborated on an Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Mosel's 1953 television play, Madame Aphrodite. The musical of the same name, which starred Nancy Andrews in the title role, opened at the Orpheum Theatre on December 29, 1961, but closed after only 13 performances. No cast album was recorded, and the show has never been performed since.In 1960,
Herman made his Broadway debut with the revue From A to Z, which featured contributions from newcomers Woody Allen and Fred Ebb as well.
That same year producer Gerard Oestreicher approached him after seeing a performance of Parade, and asked if he would be interested in composing the score for a show about the founding of the state of Israel. The result was his first full-fledged Broadway musical, Milk and Honey (starring Molly Picon), in 1961.
It received respectable reviews and ran for 543 performances.In 1964, producer David Merrick united Herman with Carol Channing for a project that was to become one of his more successful, Hello, Dolly!. The original production ran for 2,844 performances, the longest running musical for its time, and was later revived three times.
Although facing stiff competition from Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that season, winning 10, a record that remained unbroken for 37 years, until The Producers won 12 Tonys in 2001. (Did you know Phyllis Diller was the 4th Dolly on Broadway in HELLO, DOLLY!)In 1966, Herman's next musical was the smash hit Mame starring Angela Lansbury, which introduced a string of Herman standards, most notably the ballad "If He Walked Into My Life", the holiday favorite "We Need a Little Christmas", and the title tune.(Martha Raye was the fifth Dolly on Broadway)
Although not commercial successes, Dear World (1969) starring Angela Lansbury, Mack & Mabel (1974) starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters, and The Grand Tour (1979) starring Joel Grey are noted for their interesting concepts and their melodic, memorable scores. Herman considers Mack & Mabel his personal favorite score, with later composition La Cage aux Folles in a close second. Both Dear World and Mack & Mabel have developed a cult following among Broadway aficionados.
(Pearl Bailey was the 6th Dolly on Broadway)
On Sunday night, August 23, 1983, La Cage aux Folles opened at the Palace Theatre in New York, crowning the career of Jerry Herman which had begun 23 years earlier (with a slight flop entitled From A to Z.)
Is La Cage Herman's best score? Or is it Hello, Dolly!? Mame? Mack and Mabel? Dear World? Who knows.... and frankly, my dear, who gives a damn. Thank God for them all. In this year of great canonization for Sondheim, let us now praise the other musical genius whose times we are lucky enough to share. La Cage has been revived, again, for its third go 'round on the Great White Way. Hailed as a slimming down of the opulent original with more of a synthesized (synthetic?) orchestra, drag icon Albin is back, putting just a little more mascara on, bless her. The heart, the spirit and the love in the show remain, if the grandeur is a bit more gauche. The sounds emanating from star Kelsey Grammer seem more like noise and less than pretty and co-star Douglas Hodge sometimes sounds much more like a ballad singer imitating Tony Newley, but what's important is that the score and the show is being seen and heard by a new audience.

Love has a special place in all of Herman's musicals, and never more than here. There may be people in the world who can listen to the reprise of "Look Over There" without tearing up, but I don't ever want to know them.
I posed on Facebook this morning: "What is your favorite Jerry Herman song, musical, and or appearance?"

Here are a few of the responses:

Ralph Pace wrote: "for song, The Best of times, and for a show, Mame-hard to beat Angela and Bea (especially in the Man in the Moon number)."

RON TUNNING: Boy, that's a tough question. Hello Dolly was the very first Broadway Musical I ever saw on my very first trip to New York as a young adolescent traveling with my grandparents. So it's always held a special place in my heart, as has your mentor Carol Channing who absolutely dazzled these still emerging gay eyes.

Ron Equality Tunning: However, I think La Cage Aux Folles is my favorite, dazzling my fully developed gayness as a relatively new resident of the Big Apple thoroughly submersed in sampling all of its forbidden fruits. I've never seen Mame on Broadway, its original production having opened at an inopportune time for me, and its revival at the Gershwin too short-lived for me to see.

Sam Austin wrote: "I too vote for "Kiss Her Now" but so many worthy contenders on the list. "Time Heals Everything" is a close second, and "Song On the Sand," "Look Over There" and the aforementioned "Roses" all in the top ten.
For up tunes my favorite would be "Wherever He Ain't."

Bob Diamond wrote: "Time Heals Everything"

It only takes a moment to realize that Broadway's Golden Age is alive and well and thriving as long as Jerry Herman's around. "When they passed out talent," the legendary Carol Channing has said, "Jerry stood in line twice."Almost single-handedly, the creator of Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, La Cage aux Folles and so much more has revitalized and nourished the all-American tradition of great and unstoppable show tunes. His music and lyrics have kept audiences tapping their feet, humming along, and wiping their eyes with tears of joy for generations. Even as often he's been underrated as being too easy to like in a world of dark and foreboding musicals, too entertaining, too tuneful and much too upbeat, the genius of Herman's deceptively simple songs cuts through any shortsighted criticism.

Karen MorrowKaren Morrow (born December 15, 1936) is an American singer – actress best known for her work in musical theater. Her honors include an Emmy Award and a Theatre World Award, and an Ovation Award and five Drama-Logue Award nominations.This is from JERRY HERMAN AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL.
This 1993 tribute to Jerry Herman collects numbers from the songwriter's Broadway shows, performed by a wide variety of stars, many with strong ties to Herman. You've got Carol Channing, of course (the original and forever Dolly), Leslie Uggams (Jerry's Girls), George Hearn (La Cage aux Folles), Bea Arthur (with her trademark "Man in the Moon" from Mame), Lee Roy Reams and Karen Morrow (An Evening with Jerry Herman), Florence Lacey (The Grand Tour), Lorna Luft (Judy Garland's daughter), Davis Gaines, Michael Feinstein, and Rita Moreno, all backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Don Pippin (Herman's longtime musical director) before a live audience at the Hollywood Bowl. Pippin leads the orchestra in instrumental medleys of waltzes and marches, Liza Minnelli, Paul and Linda McCartney, and Angela Lansbury offered prerecorded greetings, and humorous moments are provided by Luft's grouchy "Put It Back On" response to the dance team's "Take It All Off" (the producers make it up to her later by giving her Mack & Mabel's great ballad "Time Heals Everything"). There's also Reams's impressions of Channing, Pearl Bailey, and Louis Armstrong performing "Hello, Dolly"; and Arthur, who explains that Mame was not named after her character simply because nothing would rhyme with "Vera"--though "Sondheim could have done it." The guest of honor laughs right along with the crowd, and then takes the stage himself for the finale--for Jerry Herman fans, this concert is the best of times indeed. --David Horiuchi

(Ethel Merman was the 7th and final Dolly in the original run of "Dolly" making in the longest running show at that time.)

Mary Martin took it to London, Vietnam, and around the world.

It was made into a major motion picture starring Barbra Streisand.Barbara Streisand as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly (1969)
Ms. Streisand was in her late 20s at the time portraying a character who was in her early to mid 40s looking for another chance at love and life. And due to the casting even the lyric for the title song (“Look at the old girl now”) doesn’t make much sense. Or for that matter neither does the entire song “Before the Parade Passes By”. Barbara Streisand in the right role was a gifted singer/actor but I can't help imagining Carol Channing having that role perserved on film.See yesterday's blog for more on Streisand.
Her first film was a reprise of her Broadway hit, Funny Girl (1968), an artistic and commercial success directed by Hollywood veteran William Wyler, for which she won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actress, sharing it with Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter), the only time there has been a tie in this Oscar category.
Her next two movies were also based on musicals, Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!, directed by Gene Kelly (1969), and Alan Jay Lerner's and Burton Lane's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, directed by Vincente Minnelli (1970), while her fourth film was based on the Broadway play The Owl and the Pussycat (1970).

And a touch of Merman!Ethel Merman (January 16, 1908 – February 15, 1984) is known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage."Among the many standards introduced by Merman in Broadway musicals are "I Got Rhythm", "Everything's Coming Up Roses", "I Get a Kick Out of You", "It's De-Lovely", "Friendship", "You're the Top", "Anything Goes", and "There's No Business Like Show Business", which later became her theme song.


Onstage, she was renowned as "the world's greatest entertainer." On records, they defined her as "Miss Show Business." On television, she was nicknamed "The Legend." And on radio, her most frequent performance partner christened her "the perfect illustration of the one hundred per cent professional."

But it was as a motion picture star that the incomparable Judy Garland first rose to international fame. (Judy Garland's first appearence before an MGM camera with Deanna Durbin in EVERY SUNDAY)
From her feature film debut in 1936 through the omnisciently titled I Could Go On Singing in 1963, she lit up the screen with a magic uniquely hers -- and dazzled world-wide audiences of all ages. In fact, one of the hallmarks of a Garland movie performance was her ability to inspire cinema patrons to applaud as if they were watching a live show.

Judy Garland starred in two dozen of the all-time classic motion picture musicals, among them A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, Babes in Arms, For Me and My Gal, The Pirate, and The Harvey Girls. Dramatic turns in Judgment at Nuremberg, The Clock, and A Child is Waiting won for her a new level of accolade. And perhaps most unforgettably, she played the role that is now regarded as the single most recognizable actor/character combination in film history (in the best loved movie of all time): Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz.

Garland's film stardom bridged decades and crossed generations.
Today, she is one of the few stars of Hollywood's Golden Age whose luminosity and fame have never dimmed. Judy: A Legendary Film Career tells the story of her movie work in unprecedented detail: over five hundred illustrations (many of them never-before-published); newly-assembled contemporary review quotes and comments from her costars and coworkers; cast, staff, and musical number listings; synopses, and production histories. The book is highlighted as well by a concise, definitive biography; an examination of Judy's appearances in short subjects; details of the movies she began and was unable to complete; and an enthralling compendium of the film projects for which she was supposedly considered or rumored.

Judy: A Legendary Film Career is the work of author/historian John Fricke, whose past Garland productions and journalism have won him two Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award nomination. This is John Fricke's sixth book, and it celebrates as never before the heart, humor, and incandescent motion picture achievement of the one-and-only Judy Garland.

Judy: A Legendary Film Careerwill be available in stores on August 23rd but you can pre-order it now on Amazon!

And learn tidbits such as this:
On this date, May 15, 1940 ... in the portrait gallery at M-G-M, Judy was posing for Eric Carpenter. This new set of publicity portraits was done while Judy was in production on STRIKE UP THE BAND."

All you have to do today is bask in the LOVE and talent that surrounds you!
Join me tonight for Peggy Herman at The Metropolitan Room!
(Thanks to Wikipedia as my main source for information)

Tomorrow's blog will be YOU TELL ME...the first three suggestions I receive!

Richard Skipper,
In honor of Mary Tyler Moore, Get well soon! We're rooting for you!

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