Klea Blackhurst: One of the Girls: The Words and Music of Jerry Herman

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Klea Blackhurst

One of the Girls: The Words and Music of Jerry Herman

Birdland Theater, NYC, October 21, 2021

Reviewed by Ron Forman

Klea Blackhurst

I have often said that Jerry Herman was the Irving Berlin of the second half of the 20th Century. Klea Blackhurst’s new show, One of the Girls: The Words and Music of Jerry Herman,gives ample evidence to support my quote. It was refreshing to see a show that had me humming and even singing the songs as I walked back to my car. The vivacious Blackhurst belts Herman’s songs with great power and pizzazz, making sure that every lyric is clearly enunciated. Blackhurst got to work with and become friends with Herman, and her memories of him were often funny and sometimes quite moving. The title of the show is appropriate, as it focuses on the real women in Herman’s life—his loving mom Ruth; the stars of his shows, including Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Angela Lansbury, Ethel Merman, and Blackhurst herself; and the women in his shows—Dolly, Mame, and Zaza in La Cage aux Folles.Music director Michael Waldrop (piano) and the Pocket Change Trio provided the perfect lively accompaniment to Blackhurst’s vocals.

Blackhurst opened with “Just Leave Everything to Me,” a song Barbra Streisand introduced in the film version of Hello, Dolly!, which lead into a very amusing recounting of how the very young Herman met with producer David Merrick about landing the job of writing the songs for that show. Blackhurst did a rousing version of “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” the song Herman wrote over a weekend to land the job.

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She followed with a soft “It Only Takes a Moment.” Herman’s parents would take him to the theater every Friday night. At age 13 he saw Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. He came home that night and decided that writing musicals was what he wanted to do in life. Blackhurst then offered a beautifully moving medley of Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” and my personal favorite Herman song, “Time Heals Everything.
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” She then powerfully performed “I Don’t Want to Know,’ from the failed show Dear World. Blachurst movingly told of Herman’s loss of his partner to AIDS and his own remarkable recovery from the disease and living another 35 years; this was followed by a very powerful performance of Herman’s anthem “I Am Who I Am” from his triumphant return to Broadway with La Cage aux Folles. She closed with the song Herman said that he wished he had not written, the title song from Dear World. For the encore, Blackhurst returned to the stage to say she could not end a show about the always optimistic Herman, with a song he wished that he had not written. She told a story of Herman coming home from school and seeing a big cake on the table and asking his mom what the celebration was for. His mom replied, “It’s today,” leading into a rousing performance of “It’s Today” from Mame,that left the audience cheering.

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.