Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jerry Herman!

Light the candles, get the ice out, roll the rug up, it's Jerry Herman's Birthday!

Happy Jerry Herman Day!
I know yesterday was Jerry Herman's birthday, but I was out yesterday interviewing Lee Roy Reams, Tovah Feldshuh...all have a connection to Jerry Herman.
 I have a confession to make. I am unabashedly in love with Jerry Herman.
I have been my entire life and his music has been such an integral part of my life. Milk and Honey, Jerry's first Broadway musical opened the year I was born and he has always been a constant in my life. Everytime, I heard his songs on television specials and the Tonys, I was moved.

When I was thirteen, I made my stage debut with our local community group, The Theater of The Republic. It cinched my love for Jerry, the theater, and my definite career path. I did not seek out to have a career as Carol Channing. It just happened. The night I performed for Carol Channing the first time, Jerry was there.

 He, unfortunately, had to catch a plane and did not get a chance to see me perform. One of my biggest regrets. However, he did see my interaction with Carol and was completely complimentary that I had really captured Carol.
When Carol gave me her blessing and endorsement, little did I know that my portrayal of Carol Channing would take me around the world. As a result, obviously, I would be singing many of Jerry's songs. I never got tired of singing those songs and comprised some of my favorite moments. I have put together tributes to Jerry and, earlier, this year, I was thrilled to produce Peggy Herman's tribute to Jerry Herman at Feinstein's. I did it because of my love for both Hermans, Jerry and Peggy!

These incredible arrangements are by Alex Rybeck who's birthday is today.
Over the past year, I have seen tributes to Jerry by Joan Curto and Jason Graae. I NEVER get tire of Jerry's music. I love you, Jerry! And now I am writing an oral  history of Hello, Dolly! As I have emerged myself in the world of Dolly Levi over the past seven months, one this is certain. EVERYONE loves you Jerry!
I hope you enjoy this tribute!

There is never an evening when, somewhere in the world,the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman are not being sung by a lady in a red headdress, or a lady with a bugle, or a middle-aged man in a wig and a boa.
 Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage Aux Folles are home to some of the most popular, most-often performed and most successful musical hero(in)es of all time, and have given Jerry Herman the distinction of being the only composer-lyricist in history to have had three musicals that ran more than 1,500 consecutive performances on Broadway.

 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 the 1960 revue Parade, which starred my dear friend, the late great Dody Goodman. Now available again in an original cast recording.
His first Broadway show was Milk and Honey (1961).
Jerry Herman burst onto the Great White Way as its youngest creator of music and lyrics with the successful "Milk and Honey" and was nominated for a Tony and a Grammy. He won Station WPAT’s Gaslight Award for "Shalom" as Best Song of 1961. 

Next came Hello, Dolly! (1964).

The blockbuster musical hit based on Thorton Wilder's THE MATCHMAKER was the winner of ten Tony Awards. During its record-breaking run on Broadway, original star Carol Channing was succeeded by Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller and Ethel Merman. Mary Martin was DOLLY in London and Viet Nam. Barbra Streisand starred in the 1969 classic film which remains a solid hit worldwide in DVD and VHS sales today. There have been three revivals on Broadway, in 1975 with Pearl Bailey, 1978 and 1995 with Carol Channing.

Mame (1966) 

 Jerry's third consecutive musical hit on Broadway, starred Angela Lansbury who was succeeded by Celeste Holm, Janice Paige, Jane Morgan, and Ann Miller. Ms. Lansbury starred in the 1983 Broadway revival and Lucille Ball and Robert Preston headlined the film. Mame also gave us the Christmas classic We Need A Little Christmas and the immortal If He Walked Into My Life..

Dear World (1969),  
"Mr. Herman's score is glorious, lilting and romantic, and full of songs that urge listeners to dream" -- This is his most classically oriented score, more relevant today because of its environmental activism. The show won Angela Lansbury her second Tony Award in a Jerry Herman musical.

Mack and Mabel (1974)
Bernadette Peters became a star in this much beloved musical that produced such standards as I WON'T SEND ROSES and TIME HEALS EVERYTHING. Robert Preston, Ms. Peters and Lisa Kirk starred on Broadway in the original production. In 1995 the musical won the London Evening Standard Award for Best Musical starring Howard McGillin and Caroline O'Connor. A West End revival in 2006 won great critical acclaim as various productions continue worldwide. An all star concert made history in 2003 at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center.

The Grand Tour (1979)
Based on S. N. Behrman's Jacobowsky and the Colonel, the score includes I'll Be Here Tomorrow, You I Like, I Belong Here, One Extraordinary Thing, and Marianne. With Joel Grey as its star, the show played the Palace Theatre in 1979.

La Cage Aux Folles (1983)
In 1983, La Cage electrified Broadway, winning six Tony Awards including another Tony for Jerry. It ran four and a half years, making Jerry the only Composer/Lyricist in history to have three musicals on Broadway that each exceeded 1500 performances. The 2005 revival won yet another Tony for Best Musical. The 2010 revival set a record as the only musical to win three Tonys for three separate productions.

Jerry’s Girls (1985)
 Jerry's Girls -- a tribute to the fabulous ladies of the Herman musicals, that has played on Broadway and every major American city -- has also had three monumentally successful productions in Australia. Some of its stars have included Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams, Chita Rivera, Dorothy Louden, Andrea McArdle, and Jo Anne Worley.

Mrs. Santa Claus (1996), a CBS TV special starring Angela Lansbury.
 It’s sometimes said that behind every great man there’s a great woman. But then there’s Mrs. Santa Claus, who’s not content to stay behind. She’s out front, using her special talents. Angela Lansbury stars in Jerry Herman’s delightful TV musical about a woman who proves even Santa needs help to make Christmas run smoothly...

Showtune, a revue of his life’s work, is performing in regional theatres around the country.
This sparkling jewel of a revue is infused with the qualities of Jerry Herman's music and lyrics, his insightful humanity, unshakable belief in love, and unquenchable optimism. Conceived by my friend Paul Gilger, this six person production is a living Jerry Herman songbook............
 and...two of Jerry's classic songs are the emotional highlights of the hit Disney-Pixar film WALL-E.

Jerry added three songs to the successful revue, A Day In Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine directed by Tommy Tune. It received Tony nominations including best musical and best original score.

 Jerry's most recent album is Miss Spectacular -- a concept album, was recorded in 1999 with an all-star cast including Christine Baranski, Michael Feinstein, Davis Gaines, Debbie Gravitte, Steve Lawrence, Karen Morrow, and Faith Prince. This is the newest Jerry Herman musical, written for Las Vegas, and awaiting production.
 Steve Wynn had asked Herman to write a musical that would be presented at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, possibly in 2000.Wynn planned to install the musical in its theater for a long-term engagement, but when the property was sold to MGM the new owners had no interest in the project.

His string of awards and honors includes multiple Tonys, Grammys, Drama Desk Awards, the Kennedy Center Award, the Johnny Mercer Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award, the Frederick Lowe Award, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame. (Source: Jerry Herman's Official website)

Raised in Jersey City, New Jersey 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 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.
Herman graduated from Jersey City's Henry Snyder High School. 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. While an undergraduate student at the University of Miami Herman produced, wrote and directed a college musical called Sketchbook. It was scheduled to run for three performances, but the show created an instant massive patron demand.
Herman's Sketchbook attracted packed houses for an additional 17 performances before it was finally cancelled.

It was the longest running show in the history of University on Miami theater. He was also a member of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity. (Source: Wikipedia)

Thank you Jerry for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be...Patricia Cope's Memories of Ethel Merman's Hello, Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

No comments:

Post a Comment