Jerry Herman tastes success anew with 'La Cage aux Folles'
A revival on Broadway starring Kelsey Grammer has earned 11 Tony Award nominations.
Veteran composer Jerry Herman is basking in the glow of the success of the revival of his 1983 Broadway hit "La Cage aux Folles." (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times / May 26, 2010)
Three decades ago, Tony Award-winning composer Jerry Herman ("Hello, Dolly!," "Mame") went to see the French film "La Cage aux Folles," a comedy about a gay couple — a manager of a drag nightclub in St. Tropez and his lover, the club's star attraction — and what happens when the manager's son brings home his fiancée's very conservative family.
"I came home and said, 'This has to be my next musical,' " recalls Herman. "I called my agent and he told me that other people were working on it and I was too late.
He was so sorry.
But what happened is that they got rid of that group and they wanted to start all over again with me.
I always felt it was meant to be."
Herman starts to laugh. "This is what I told my closest friends: I called each one of them and said, 'I am going to do a new show that I know has very limited appeal, but I don't care because I love the material.'
They all laugh now. They said, 'Limited? We don't think so.' It's just been a beautiful surprise."
Just like the Les Cagelles performers at the nightclub, the musical has had amazing legs.
The original Broadway production, which ran from 1983-87, starred George Hearn as the flamboyant Albin and Gene Barry as his partner, Georges.
It received eight Tony nominations and won six of the awards, including best musical, director (Arthur Laurents), actor (Hearn) and score for Herman.
A 2004-05 Broadway revival didn't find an audience but won two Tonys, including one for best revival. Then in 2008, a more intimate, scaled-down version directed by Terry Johnson premiered in London and won the Laurence Olivier Award for best musical revival as well as for best actor, for Douglas Hodge as Albin.
That production, also starring Kelsey Grammer as Georges, opened last month on Broadway to great acclaim. The production picked up three Drama Desk awards on Sunday, plus a special award to Herman "for enchanting and dazzling audiences with his exuberant music and heartfelt lyrics for more than half a century." It will compete for 11 awards at the Tonys on June 13.
Relaxing in the well-appointed living room of his expansive Beverly Hills condo, the 78-year-composer, who won the lifetime achievement Tony last year, says the success of the new "Cage" has been a "remarkable" experience.
"It's the same music, the same lyrics, the same wonderful book by Harvey Fierstein.
But it's totally new. It's in the perspective of the audience going into a little club."
The lavish 1983 production, says Herman, was perfect for its time. "It was when we were doing big glamorous musicals," he says. "Now, 27 years later, this new production is so perfect for today because it's gritty.
It's real and it's not glamorous at all. The entire evening focuses on the three people, the two guys and the son.
It's about people and it's about the difficulty of a son being ashamed of a person who brought him up as a mother. You are never distracted by a sequin or a bead. Instead of 30 pieces, the orchestra is stronger with eight pieces."
It can take Herman weeks and even months to write a song, but it took him only one day to compose "I Am What I Am," the rousing and emotional end to Act I, which became a hit for Gloria Gaynor and a gay pride anthem.
"Harvey Fierstein came in one day with a beautiful speech to end Act I," Herman recalls.
"In the middle of the speech, Albin said, 'I am what I am, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.'
I remember him reading this and I said, 'Wait a second. If you will OK my using those five words, I will write you a killer closing number for Act I.'
Harvey said, 'Go have a good time.' The next day, I called both Arthur and Harvey and said, 'I have something to play for you. I can't wait.' It just came to me."
Herman is really the last of the traditionalist Broadway musical composers in the tradition of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser and Cole Porter. His scores run the gamut, from flashy, catchy tunes to big production numbers to heartfelt ballads. It's no wonder that two of his "Hello, Dolly!" tunes, "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Only Takes a Moment," taught the little robot "Wall-E" all he needed to know about the human race in the 2008 animated Oscar winner.
"I think his music is universal," says "Cage" musical director Todd Ellison. "I think it touches on so many levels. The lyrics are concise and the melodies fit them
perfectly. So you have a song [from 'Cage'] like 'Song on the Sand,' which is a gorgeous melody and the sentiment is so incredibly moving. He turns on the faucet and out comes the melody. It just flows so easily for him."
Over the last 27 years, Herman has received letters about how "Cage" changed people's lives (now he gets e-mails).
Ironically, he says, "I did the show not as a gay activist, that's not what I am. I did the show because I thought it was a great piece of entertainment and entertainment is my middle name."
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
WINNER FOR TWO 2010 MANHATTAN ASSOCIATION OF CABARETS AND CLUBS AWARDS (MAC) FOR OUTSTANDING VARIETY SHOW AND OUTSTANDING HOSTS!
RESERVE WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S SHOW! (PLEASE NOTE: BARRY LEVITT WILL NOT BE IN THE SHOW DUE TO A PRIOR COMMITMENT!) You never know who you’ll see at the Iguana! Gregory Nalbone, Felicia Mae, & Erik Cheskie were among the great entertainers in last night’s show!
THE RAVES ARE IN! THE FOLLOWING ARE RECENT COMMENTS FROM
I have been lucky enough to participate in three wonderful Wednesday Night at the Iguana events and the experience gets better and better every time.
Dana and Richard as the warm and funny hosts,incredible talent, beautiful venue and supportive and sophisticated audiences at each show. Even if you do not usually go to Cabaret this should be at the top of your list of MUST DOs in NYC!
THE MAC AWARDS WELL DESERVED MY FRIENDS.
Barbara Gurskey, Metuchen, NJ
It was a joy to be at The Iguana last night and see the wonderful cabaret revue hosted by Dana Lorge and Richard Skipper.
I have been watching cabaret shows for over fifty years, and last night's was one of the best I've ever seen in my entire life. Living now in Fort Lauderdale for the past 8 years, I'm rather cut off from the new York cabaret scene I've always loved. So, last night was an extraordinary opportunity to catch up with more than 25 wonderful acts -- which I have been reading about on the Internet but now finally had the opportunity to see. The acts were great -- not a clunker in the carload. Dana and Richard kept the evening flowing smoothly and seamlessly -- moving swiftly from one terrific act to another. I plan to be back at The Iguana on May 26th and get up on that stage and do a new original song of my one.
I look forward to Wednesday night at the Iguana where I know I will be entertained in style and comfort. Richard and Dana are not only exceptional talents, but are also exceedlingly humorous and warm and gracious hosts.
I enjoy spreading the word to my friends who are now part of our expanding group on Wednesday nights.
Feinstein's Presents Nellie McKay's Tribute To Doris Day, Normal As Blueberry Pie 6/1-12
(SOURCE: BROADWAY WORLD)
FEINSTEIN'S AT LOEWS REGENCY, the nightclub proclaimed "Best of New York" by New York Magazine and "an invaluable New York institution" by The New York Post, continues its star-studded Spring 2010 season with the debut of critically acclaimed singer, songwriter and actress Nellie McKay from June 1 - 12.
For her show at Feinstein's Ms. McKay will celebrate the release of her latest CD, Normal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day. All shows will take place at the Regency Hotel (540 Park Avenue at 61st Street).
Normal As Blueberry Pie - which "ranks among the killer overhauls of American standards, with sharply original arrangements," according to The New York Times - features 12 songs handpicked from over 600 recordings of Ms. Day's, as well as an original by McKay. The album bridges the big band era of the ‘40s from "Sentimental Journey" to "Dig It" with Day's later film career from "The Very Thought of You" from Young Man With a Horn to "Send Me No Flowers" from the film of the same name.
"We were trying to connect with the many time periods in Doris' life," McKay explains, "from the big bands to the post-McCarthy era." Exasperating, exhilarating, and altogether uncategorizable, her latest album showcases Nellie's fresh take on music and life with a curtsy to Doris, a nod to convention, and a unique twist all her own. Nellie reviewed a recent biography of Day for The New York Times, and is one of the few people in 30 years to be granted an interview with Ms. Day (The Bark Magazine, 2007). "What she possessed - beyond her beauty, physical grace and natural acting ability - was a resplendent voice that conveyed enormous warmth and feeling," writes Nellie (The New York Times, 2007).
Nellie McKay has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and on numerous national television and radio shows, opened for Bo Diddley and Sting, dueted with Eartha Kitt, Trey Anastasio and Taj Mahal, interviewed Doris Day, and shared the stage with Odetta, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and other notables in aid of various progressive causes. Since her audacious double-album debut Get Away From Me, Nellie McKay has been a creative dynamo, releasing three self-produced albums including Pretty Little Head and Obligatory Villagers.
She won a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of "Polly Peachum" in the Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera and was featured in the Richard LaGravenese film PS I Love You where she sings and plays the role of "Ciara," Hilary Swank's younger sister. She also performs standards and original music for the Rob Reiner movie Rumor Has It. Up next, she is slated to star in the David Grubin film Russian Blue opposite violin prodigy Phillipe Quint and is currently creating the Broadway musical version of the book and movie Election.
FEINSTEIN'S AT LOEWS REGENCY will present Nellie McKay with the following schedule: Tuesday through Thursday at 8:30 PM and Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM and 10:30 PM. The 8:00 PM and 8:30 PM shows have a $60.00 cover with $75.00 premium seats and the 10:30 PM shows have a $40.00 cover with $60.00 premium seats both with a $40.00 food and beverage minimum. For all shows, there are a select amount of seats based on availability with a $40 cover charge and no food/beverage minimum. Jackets are suggested but not required. FEINSTEIN'S AT LOEWS REGENCY is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street in New York City. For ticket reservations and club information, please call (212) 339-4095 or visit us online at feinsteinsatloewsregency.com and TicketWeb.com.
(Host Karen Cadle and Legend Rich Little)
Little's Impressions … in Charcoal?
In the now popular tradition of the Legend Series at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, friends, colleagues and fans such as Richard Chamberlain, Tippi Hedren, Jon Voight and more gathered on Sunday, May 23rd for a evening with Rich Little and his Art. Little is best known as the master mimic of over 200 voices, however in addition to his spot on impersonations of legends such as Jack Benny, George Burns, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and five presidents (Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Sr, and Clinton), the two-day engagement in the Palace of Mystery Theatre at the Magic Castle also featured Mr. Little's artwork both onstage and in The Castle's Inner Circle.
Sunday's night's engagement featured a tribute to the Legendary Ladies by British Sensation, Toni Morrell, prior to Rich Little's tribute in his art to the Legendary Men and their voices.
During the unique performance Q&A, hosted by Karen Cadle, Little offered a glimpse at a lesser-known side of the talented comedian.
Amazing life-like depictions of the famous he has so masterfully impersonated over the years, done in charcoal on paper. Part of the evening included a special on-stage presentation of artwork done by Mr. Little to be presented to friends, Jon Voight and Richard Chamberlain, making a promise for the stage to the glamorous Ms. Tippi Hedren in the audience that she was next.
Little's big break in the U.S. was in his early 20's when he appeared on CBS's The Judy Garland Show. Appearances on numerous TV variety shows such as Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, Laugh-In and The Julie Andrews Show followed.
Rich had his own variety show in the 70's. He also performed as guest host twelve times for Johnny Carson, and was named "Comedy Star of the Year" by the American Guild of Variety Artists.
Little has recorded nine comedy albums and starred in three HBO comedy specials, winning an Emmy, among other awards.
He starred as Johnny Carson in the HBO movie The Late Shift. Daytime television appearances include The Young and the Restless, Fantasy Island, CHIPS, Murder She Wrote, Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver and Police Woman. Little's expert impressions have also been used seriously, as when he stepped in for such stars as David Niven, Peter Sellers and Gene Kelly who were unable to do their own re-dubbings on motion picture soundtracks.
Over the years Rich Little has been active with children's charities and he was co-host of the Canadian division of the Children's Miracle Network. He was inducted into the Miami Children's Hospital International Pediatrics Hall of Fame for his tireless efforts in fundraising on behalf of children. In June of 1998 Rich Little added his star to the Canadian Walk of Fame to go along with his current star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Rich Little Artwork available at www.CelebrityConsignments.com.
Photo Credit: BRIAN PUTNAM
Support THE ARTS! LIVE THEATRE! Go see a LIVE show this week!
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With grateful XOXOXs for your support!
Richard SkipperFollow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper
HERE IS WHAT AUDIENCES ARE SAYING ABOUT MY WORK:
Sandee and I love Richard and Dana, We always have a good time at Iguana. The food is good and reasonable. Richard and Dana are the best host and Hostess in town. The talent is top notch, the jokes can make you laugh, and one can get home at a decent hour...
Michael Janin, Long Beach New York
It was so great to work with Richard Skipper at the LGBT comedy vent in Nyack. He is a fabulous, hilarious and a classic entertainer.
Kelli Dunham, http://www.kellidunham.com
I had the pleasure of attending WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA this past Wednesday evening. I have to commend Richard Skipper and Dana Lorge for presenting a thoroughly delight-full evening with a talented array of performers.It was great hearing and seeing Richard & Dana performing live. As General MacArthur said, "I SHALL RETURN."
Len Schlosberg, Leonard Talent Associates Inc.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NYC THE AWARD WINNING WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA STARRING DANA LORGE, RICHARD SKIPPER, AND FRIENDS!
Dana Lorge and I have put our OWN spin on the variety show format and are now hosting every Wednesday night in NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge (http://www.iguananyc.com) in the heart of NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission).
Cover: $12 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!
WINNER OF TWO 2010 MANHATTAN ASSOCIATION OF CABARETS AND CLUBS AWARDS (MAC) FOR OUTSTANDING VARIETY SHOW AND OUTSTANDING HOSTS!
or more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_
RESERVATIONS A MUST!!!!!!!! 212-765-5454.
June 2nd: D'Yan Forest Helena Grenot, Cindy Marchionda, and Pam Palmieri
June 16th: 2010 Meg Flather,Julie Reyburn, Lisa Raze returns and Lorinda Lisitza joins us for the first time!
JUNE 23rd: CELEBRATING ONE YEAR OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA!Sigali Hamberger, Dora Ruben, Pam Tate,and Catt John
June 30th: KEVIN DOZIER!, Evan Lawrence, TRAVIS MOSER RETURNS, Frank Torren!
JULY 7th: JON BURR & LYNN STEIN and JANICE HALL RETURN!
JULY 28: PAULETTE DOZIER RETURNS
TILL NEXT WEEK...HERE'S TO A MUSICAL JUNE!