Despite aching love songs, there’s nothing like an evening of Jerry Herman’s heart-on-his-sleeve work to raise one’s spirits. Having music-directed Broadway’s most recent revival of Hello, Dolly!, Andy Einhorn is emotionally invested in this “celebration, not memorial,” of the recently deceased artist. It shows. “He was funny, kind, considerate, full of life and heart,”our host declares.
The script, peppered with well chosen quotes, is economic, illuminating, and warm, especially when delivered by Einhorn himself. Adroit music and vocal arrangements, including a fine, unexpected banjo (Scott Kuney-also guitar) couldn’t be better. The small orchestra is superb. Cady Huffman’s nuanced direction lets the material shine, exhibiting flair without undue distraction.
Attending a 1946 production of Annie Get Your Gun apparently hooked Herman on musical theater. Piano lessons were a disaster, but his play-by-ear talent kept the boy writing for fun. That he considered endeavors a hobby is consistent with matriculating at Parsons School of Design. His mother knew better and arranged for her son to play for Frank Loesser who turned Herman’s life around. Quentin Earl Darrington’s “I Belong Here” (The Grand Tour) is the perfect embodiment of redirected path.
Andrea Ross, Cady Huffman, and Bryonha Marie Parnham offer a rousing “It’s Today” (Mame), after which we’re treated to a snippet from Herman’s earlier, 1960 revue song “Showtune” which first employed that melody. Einhorn is nothing if not savvy. We hear about the origin of the lyric and then that the eager artist wrote four songs in three days to secure Hello, Dolly! from David Merrick.
Ryan Vona, a standout among the cast, leads “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” (Hello, Dolly!) with palpable, ingenuous exuberance. His “Confession to A Park Avenue Mother” (Parade) is appealingly wry.
“Jerry wrote so well for women,” Einhorn comments. “I guarantee there was always a part of his mother sitting on his shoulder.” Introducing a heartrending interpretation of the countess’s “I Don’t Want to Know” (Dear World), our host recognizes the countess’s rallying cry as being particularly relevant today. (Too true.) Vona sits on the lip of the stage mining every bit of pathos.
Selections from Milk and Honey, Mack and Mabel (Herman’s favorite), and Dear World follow. A rendition of “You I Like” (The Grand Tour) by the three men is perceptibly fraternal. Harmony and counterpoint works wonderfully. “Mame” is preceded by a skeptical quote from its author saying lightening can’t strike twice for a title song. It did, of course.
“Before the Parade Passes By,” replete with spoken appeal to the character’s husband, is well served by Parham. Darrington has a spectacular voice, but one doesn’t believe a word of what he sings. Ross’s “It Only Takes a Moment” (Hello, Dolly!) in tandem with “Let’s Not Waste a Moment” (Milk and Honey) lands with feeling, though a number from Mame arrives all surface gesture. A medley of love songs reminds us Herman wasn’t all sparklers.
Huffman tells us about her extraordinary experience as one of only two women in the chorus line of La Cage’s original 1985 production at a time when the AIDS crisis hit. “I Am What I Am” (Alban’s song), arguably an anthem for the era, begins a capella and swells to gale force bringing the house down. “I learned about the family we choose,” the actress tells us, reflecting Herman’s own prized friendships.
The concert is full of seamless, turnabout performances. Huffman has satiric fun with “It Takes a Woman” (Hello, Dolly!), performed by Horace in the play. Darrington’s “If He Walked Into My Life”…today, with lovely muted trumpet (Jeremy Miloszewicz) is one of Mame’s songs. Parham’s “Anne On My Arm” (La Cage aux Folles), sung by father and son, Georges and Jean-Michel in the show, is here a serenade to Ross (another woman) with whom a charming dance ensues. (Pronouns should’ve changed.)
The show irresistibly opens and closes with the honoree himself, first on voice tape, then on film. “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow” (The Grand Tour) might be a call out to Jerry Herman’s legacy. “He wrote shows that stressed the human experience,” Einhorn declares haltingly. At the last, lyrics to “The Best of Times” (La Cage aux Folles) are displayed on the screen and we all sing along. If only…
Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Quentin Earl Darrington, Ryan Vona, Cady Huffman, Andrea Ross, Bryonha Marie Parnham, Chad Smith
Lyrics & Lyricists – Jerry Herman: You I Like
Andy Einhorn – Arrangements/Orchestrations/Narrative/Host
Directed by Cady Huffman
92Y at Lexington Avenue
COMING UP: George Gershwin March 21-23
Stephen Schwartz: April 18-20