Jerry Herman Tribute

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Jerry Herman Tribute

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, March 12, 2020

Reviewed by Ron Forman

Jerry Herman

There could not have been a lovelier last show before the (hopefully) temporary suspension of shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below than the tribute to the late Jerry Herman. It starred two of today’s best cabaret performers—Lee Roy Reams and Christine Andreas. Hosted by Scott Coulter, and including a cast of uniformly talented vocalists, it was a loving and moving tribute to the last of the Broadway songwriters in the tradition of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and Richard Rodgers. As I was driving home, I could not help humming and even singing many of the more than a dozen songs performed.

Lee Roy Reams opened the show with “It’s Today” from a table in the audience and then moved to the stage for this very upbeat and lively number. Scott Coulter commented that Herman looked at life in the most positive way, which was the perfect introduction to Lexie Dorsett’s strong performance of “I Don’t Want to Know” from Dear World. Chris Blem’s well-acted performance of “A Little Mascara” was so memorable that I found myself singing it the next day. Klea Blackhurst told how David Merrick envisioned Ethel Merman in the starring role of Hello, Dolly! and how finally, six years after its opening, and after quite a few major stars had replaced Carol Channing, Merman took over the role of Dolly. Blackhurst in her best Mermanesque voice belted “World Take Me Back,” a song originally written by Herman especially for Merman, deleted when she declined the role, but put back in for Merman to perform.

Two young singers Jon Peterson and Tori Sicklick, sang and danced together wonderfully while performing “With You on My Arm.” Dexter also offered a truly moving rendition of my personal favorite Herman song “Time Heals Everything” that ended on a thrilling note. Mark Waldrop, who was in the original cast of Grand Tour, acted out very dramatically “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow,” which was sung by Joel Grey in the original production. Coulter told how in the midst of The Beatles 13 consecutive number-one recordings, Louis Armstrong’s recording of “Hello, Dolly!” reached number one on the Billboard Charts, then performed it, with an applause-producing solo by music director Jon Boswell on piano.

Reams returned to tell a heartfelt and moving story of walking on a beach in Florida with Herman and as they were walking hearing a phonograph in the distance playing “Song on the Sand” from La Cage aux Folles.” He then did a show-stopping performance, moving gracefully across the stage. Christine Andreas, who arguably has the greatest voice of all of today’s cabaret performers sang a medley of two songs from Mame,“You’re My Best Friend” and “If He Walked into My Life” that came close to matching Eydie Gormé’s iconic performance. Andreas closed the show as it had to be closed with a truly thrilling and moving “I Am What I Am,” with the audience joining her in Herman’s anthem and the crowd cheering as she held the final note.

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.