Union Theatre Summer 2019
This short (90 minutes
including interval) salute to Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman is
pleasant. Ten pleasant performers sing pleasantly, dance pleasantly and
If in the process they
homogenise all the songs, losing much of their individual strengths and
characters and reducing the evening to a string of pretty melodies – well,
it's still pleasant.
If Jerry Herman had written
only the music and lyrics to Hello Dolly his fame would be assured. Add in
Mame, La Cage Aux Folles, Mack And Mabel and the lesser-known Milk And
Honey, Dear World and The Grand Tour and his place in the Broadway
pantheon is unquestionable.
What makes Herman special is
his conventionality. While Sondheim was stretching the boundaries of the
musical and Lloyd Webber was taking it to new emotional depths, Herman
worked completely within the formulas that had served the genre for
Each of his scores ticks off
the standard boxes – a big opening number, some love duets, come comic
songs, some big production numbers, and so on – the significant factor
being that all are among the best of their kind.
The song list here is drawn
almost entirely from the big hit shows. We could debate inclusions and
omissions, but any selection has to be – well, selective.
The one thing worth noting is
that The Big One, the song that absolutely had to be included in any
collection of Herman, barely gets the briefest of samplings, and its
omission leaves a gaping hole.
The order of songs is almost
random, with only occasional hints at thematic structure, as when a love
song from one show is answered by one from another, or when two songs
about parades are mashed together.
Stripped of their context and
performed too placidly, too many of the songs lose their dramatic power.
There is only the slightest hint of the defiance of I Am What I Am, the
poignancy of I Won't Send Roses, the wonder of It Only Takes A Moment and
the essences of others.
The songs are assigned
democratically, with everyone in the cast given a fair share, with the
result that no one gets to stand out or make much of an individual
Everyone in the cast sometimes, and some in the cast always have trouble projecting their voices over a single piano.
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Review - Showtune - Union Theatre 2019