Jerry Herman passed away yesterday. I think of him as being among the pantheon of great contemporary composers / lyricists, excelling as both song writer and wordsmith. While Hello Dolly! and Mame might immediately spring to mind when talking about Jerry Herman, to me, La Cage aux Folles, the first Broadway musical to deal openly with the gay community, is the perfect Jerry Herman creation of musical numbers, ranging from the big Broadway tunes one would expect such as ''I Am What I Am'' and ''The Best of Times'' to more subtle, sweet ballads such as ''Song on the Sand'' and ''Look Over There.'' This musical is chock full of memorable pieces.
However, I truly love two musical pieces from his earlier, short-lived musical Mack and Mabel. Serendipity led me to them. When we first moved to Florida, Hershey Felder (an actor, pianist, playwright and arranger), was staging one of his first one-man shows, George Gershwin Alone at The Cuillo Centre for the Arts in West Palm Beach (which later coincidentally became the home of Dramaworks). That was sometime around 2005 before I began writing this blog so I never reviewed it, but it was a unique work which only a great pianist such as Felder could have created and performed. It ultimately made its way to Broadway. But getting back to the connection to Jerry Herman, Felder, after the performance, said a friend of his was in the audience, a well-known upcoming Broadway singer, a young man about Felder’s age, who he invited up to the stage to sing, Felder acting as an accompanist. Here’s the problem about not writing this blog at the time: I have no recollection of who this singer was. He said he would sing two of his favorite Broadway pieces, "I Won't Send Roses" and "Time Heals Everything" were from a relatively unknown Jerry Herman musical, Mack and Mabel, and oh did he sing! The audience was totally moved, captivated, and I immediately made them staples of my own piano work.
When learning Jerry Herman had died, I listened to my own recording of "I Won't Send Roses" and said to myself, yes, this is how I would like to remember this great artist. In the original production, it is sung by a movie director “Mack” (played by Robert Preston) to his upcoming star “Mabel” warning her that she shouldn’t expect any of the niceties of romance from him. It is a brutally honest yet tender song, the words in perfect symmetry with the melody. It is later reprised in the show by Mabel (played by none other than Bernadette Peters) where she accepts Mack without the roses.
And so, I’ll think of Jerry Herman any time I play this piece, this recording from about ten years ago .
|RIP Jerry Herman|