Night Three – 29th New York Cabaret Convention

 

The Best of Jerry Herman

 

Lee Roy Reams

 

by Alix Cohen

 

I have always been a person who arranges things…begins host Klea Blackhurst in her 7th year as host. “Tonight we celebrate Jerry Herman…who came home from school one day to find his mother making a fruit plate and canapés. What are we celebrating? Jerry asked. It’s today! mom apocryphally answered. Blackhurst ebulliently launches the show with familiar Mame songs. (Jim Followell-Piano)

Brent Barrett loans his resonant, textured voice to tender numbers from La Cage aux Folles. The second, “Song in the Sand,” is especially suffused with caring. (Jim Followell-Piano) Josephine Sanges’ “I Never Said I Love You” (Dear World) is like listening to the essence of sentiment and melody. Not a superfluous gesture or note marks pristine vocal expression. This is elegance. (John Cook-Piano)

Brent Barrett – Josephine Sanges

 

“It Only Takes a Moment” (Mame) sounds like a classical piece performed at a salon. We can practically see shimmering chandeliers. Celia Berk gives its message–importance. (Jon Weber-Piano) Also attributed with significance is Valerie Lemon’s insistent “Kiss Her Now” (Dear World). The embodiment of a character who has known loneliness, she seems to be saying, ‘save yourself!’ I believe her. (Phil Hall Piano; Adrian Daurov-Cello)

“When you sing or even listen to a Jerry Herman song, the best comes out in you,” reflects Christine Pedi who first met the composer/lyricist when she interviewed him in college and later received generous advice.“Dancing” (Hello Dolly) has an understated sweetness while “Spring of Next Year” (Dear World) displays natural comic flair. Pedi knows to play it straight. There will be a sweet taste in the air/From industrial waste in the air;/And your eyelids will smart from the sting of the smog in the spring of next year…affects just the right tone. Increasingly persistent, believable coughing is hysterical. (Jon Weber-Piano)

 

Valerie Lemon – Christine Pedi

 

Eric Michael Gillett, with new knees making their stage debut, offers a dignified, defiant “I Am What I Am” (La Cage aux Folles) … And so what! if I love each sparkle and each bangle… Without volume or histrionics, the artist is credible and immensely moving. (Mike Pettry-Piano)

Lauded and prosperous in the 1960s, Herman had neither critical nor commercial success in the next decade leaving the impression that people were no longer interested in his kind of music. “Then he went to see a little French film,” Blackhurst tells us, “And the rest is Broadway history.” The next show was, of course, La Cage aux Folles.

Lee Roy Reams, a musical himself, is allotted a great many numbers. His buoyant, adrenalized “La Cage aux Folles,” including imitations of Mae West, Marlene Deitrich, and Tallulah Bankhead would be more than sufficient to firmly implant Reams’ extravagant showmanship in the minds of the very few unfamiliar with his work. THIS was Broadway. (Jim Followell-Piano)

 

Eric Michael Gillett – Kristoffer Lowe

 

From Herman’s favorite show, the ill fated Mack and Mabel, we hear “I Won’t Send Roses.” Kristoffer Lowe’s rendition shows a man unable to give what his love interest most needs.  I won’t remember/what tie you wore…he sings changing the pronoun. Bravo – It’s clear the character is torn up by the pain he’s causing, an aware monstre sacré. Lowe’s muscular tenor is in fine form. His last note is ethereal. (Tracy Stark-Piano)

As austere a presence as I’ve seen in cabaret, Marieann Meringolo yields an agonized “Time Heals Everything” (Mack and Mabel.) Determination wracks the core, vocal is steely. It’s riveting. (Doyle Newmeyer-Piano)

 

Marieann Meringolo – Christina Jimenez

 

The winner of the first annual Adela & Larry Elow American Songbook High School Competition Award blows it out of the water. 18 year-old Christina Jimenez’s crackerjack version of “Wherever He Ain’t” (Mack and Mabel) sends sparks flying. Feet planted firmly she’s determined, pugnacious. I gather the performer couldn’t rehearse this afternoon because of school. This explains the expression of surprise and delight on pianist Jim Followell’s face after the number. Watch for her. (James Followell-Piano)

 

Klea Blackhurst

 

It seems that Hello Dolly was originally written for Ethel Merman who turned it down, not once, but every time they recast the role for seven years. Finally, she said, “Now that you’ve got your previews out of the way…” and accepted. Having heard there were songs written for her that lay unused in a proverbial trunk, Merman asked Herman to play them. She very much liked “World Take Me Back” which was replaced in the versions we see by “Before the Parade Passes By.” When asked which the star would prefer, Merman said, “Both!”

Blackhurst closes tonight with another of her eminent Merman turns offering the two numbers. No more watching from the sidelines/I’m gonna star in the show…Herman would’ve loved these. Full throttle, jubilant, clarion; sheer fireworks. (James Followell-Piano)

Also featuring Joan Ryan, Greg Cropper, Sarah Rice –the sweetness of Johanna (Sweeney Todd) turned vintage, Debbie Gravitte (including an affectionate “Bosom Buddies” with Blackhurst) Amra Faye Wright, Renee Katz with a lovely “Ribbons Down My Back” (Hello Dolly)

Jerry Herman (1931-) is an American composer/lyricist whose works are some of the most successfully revived musicals originating on Broadway- Hello Dolly and Mame, and who courageously brought the principles of La Cage aux Folles to public attention. Nominated for a Tony, he won twice as well as garnering the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in The Theater. He now lives in Florida.

 

Photos by Maryann Lopinto

 

29th New York Cabaret Convention- Night Three

The Best of Jerry Herman

Host Klea Blackhurst

James Followell-Piano, Steve Doyle-Bass,       Garcia-Drums

October 11, 2018   Rose Theater/Frederick P. Rose Hall

The Mabel Mercer Foundation http://www.mabelmercer.org/

 

 

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