Earl Darrington, Cady Huffman, Bryonha Marie Parhan, Andrea Ross, and Ryan
92Y Lyrics & Lyricists: Jerry Herman, You I Like
by Deirdre Donovan
they passed out talent, Jerry stood in line twice." Carol Channing’s
endearing quote for Jerry Herman still makes theatergoers smile. And why
shouldn’t it? The lyricist-composer gave us the scintillating scores to Hello,
Dolly!, Mame, and La Cages aux Folles, to mention just a few.
the 92Y’s recent tribute to the legend, entitled “Jerry Herman: You I Like,”
New Yorkers had the opportunity to celebrate the musician with a song-fest of
his signature works. Broadway musical director and composer Andy Einhorn
hosted the event, assisted by 5 Broadway and regional performers: Quentin Earl
Darrington, Cady Huffman (an original cast member of La Cage aux Folles),
Bryonha Marie Parhan, Andrea Ross, and Ryan Vona. The five artists alternated
in presenting 26 showtunes (sixteen in Act 1; ten in Act 2) from Herman’s
oeuvre during the two-hour evening.
presentation of course had special significance to everybody assembled in the
Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall. Herman passed away only two months ago, on
December 26, 2019.
wasted no time in getting the program launched. And what better way to launch
it than with a rousing overture that presented Herman’s most popular hits, all
rolled into one? Many of the pieces would be reprised during the show, with
their rhythms and rhymes in full swing.
concert was for the ears and eyes. And, naturally, audience members
oohed and aahed over Herman’s most popular songs. But beyond this aural feast,
they also could enjoy a visual one by looking at Herman’s picture on a large
screen on stage. It showed him with a twinkle in his eye and as the very soul
doubled as narrator and pianist during the show. Yes, it was fascinating to
watch him tear up the piano one moment and then transition seamlessly into
storyteller the next. He provided the audience with lots of nuggets from
Herman’s biography, tossing in some delicious anecdotes for good measure.
he noted, was born in Manhattan but raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was
the only child of middle-class Jewish parents who had a natural bent for music
and the arts. His father Harry was a gym teacher and, during the summer, a
coach at camps in the Catskill Mountains. His mother Ruth worked as a singer,
pianist, and eventually became an English teacher. Herman worshipped her, and
her death from cancer at age 44 was a severe blow to him.
masterfully balanced his patter with the songs. He would serve up biographical
tidbits on the iconic artist and then segue into tunes that could thematically
comment on, and compound, his narration.
first two numbers, “I Belong Here” and “It’s Today,” warmed up the audience
just fine. But it was “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly!” that
really raised the room’s temperature. Einhorn, who was the musical director of
the 2017 Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! (with Bette Midler), obviously
relished resurrecting this song for all the Herman devotees in the audience.
rest of Act 1 progressed at a brisk clip, with a number of sure-fire hits: “It
Takes a Woman” (Hello, Dolly! again), “Look Over There” (La Cage aux
Folles), and the titular “You I Like” (The Grand Tour).
standouts? Well, if pressed, I would add “Time Heals Everything/I Won’t Send
Roses” (Mack & Mabel), both of which poignantly address human pain.
Act 2, a medley of Herman’s eponymous showtunes filled the air. Aptly titled
“Title Song Medley,” it featured snippets of Mame, Milk and Honey,
Dear World, La Cage Aux Folles, and Hello, Dolly!
said, the really meaty number was “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux
Folles. Einhorn pointed out that this song became a kind of gay anthem
during the AIDs crisis. And it took on personal meaning for Herman too, who
was openly gay.
strength of the presentation, in fact, is that there was something for everyone.
Indeed, if you found any musical number NOT to your liking, all you had to do
was wait another moment and the next one might be the cat’s meow. Take
“Confession to a Park Avenue Mother” from Parade and “I Don’t Want to
Know” from Dear World. They might not be considered Herman’s
A-list, or rank among his top ten, but they sure mesmerized the crowd at the
real knockouts of Act 2? Well, if push came to shove, I would say “A Little
More Mascara” from La Cage aux Folles and “Before the Parade Passes By”
from Hello, Dolly! had a little extra something.
real tearjerker, however, was the closing song,” I’ll Be Here Tomorrow” from The
Grand Tour. And whether you believe in ghosts or not, the spirit of Herman
seemed nearby as this song made its musical arc.
the entire program was an initiation into the theatrical magic of Herman’s
songs. And, as the curtain came down and folks exited onto Lexington Avenue,
you could hear some people humming snatches of Herman’s songs.
22 through 24
the 92 Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (at 92nd Street)
at press performance on Monday, February 24
more information on the 2020 Lyrics & Lyricists series, visit www.92Y.org or phone 212.415.5500
time: 2 hours with one intermission
in the series is “George Gershwin: You’ve Got What Gets Me”