Showtime: A Memoirby Jerry Herman, Marilyn Stasio
The creator of three of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, Jerry Herman is a theatrical institution. His rise from anonymity as a youth in Jersey City to become one of the most successful composer-lyricists ever is candidly recounted here in his own words. When Herman was seventeen, his mother set up, via "the mother Mafia," a meeting with the legendary… See more details below
The creator of three of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, Jerry Herman is a theatrical institution. His rise from anonymity as a youth in Jersey City to become one of the most successful composer-lyricists ever is candidly recounted here in his own words. When Herman was seventeen, his mother set up, via "the mother Mafia," a meeting with the legendary composer of Guys and Dolls, Frank Loesser, who happened to be the brother of a friend of a friend of her hairdresser. Instead of the agreed-upon ten minutes, Loesser spent an entire afternoon with young Herman, encouraging him to take a shot at songwriting: "It's a tough life, but I see talent here," he said. Jerry Herman's first creation was a downtown cabaret show that soon had crowds of tuxedo-and-mink-wearing sophisticates lined up outside. (Mistaking them for patrons of the restaurant next-door, he politely asked them to move.) From there he was engaged to work on the musical that would become Milk and Honey, earning him a Tony nomination alongside Noel Coward and Richard Rodgers. Smash hits like Hello Dolly!, Mack and Mabel, La Cage aux Folles, and Mame were to follow. Herman's memoir goes beyond the creation of his legendary hits, including hitherto unrevealed, behind-the-scenes encounters with such luminaries as Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, and the notoriously volatile Broadway producer David Merrick, whose office was an intimidating bright red, top to bottom, matching his choleric temperament. Wonderfully recreating the golden age of the Broadway musical, Jerry Herman's revealing memoir is at once frank and uplifting, a characteristic of his songs as well as a personal quality that has sustained him through a long career marked by its share of tragedy as well as triumph.
The opening chapters are best, as 17-year-old Jerry, untrained but gifted, encouraged by his doting mother (who died before he made it to Broadway) and family acquaintance Frank Loesser, heads out from Jersey City to devote his life to showtunes: theater studies at the University of Miami; playing piano at supper clubs (listening hard to Mabel Mercer); scoring with little revuesand with his Broadway debut, Milk and Honey, featuring a show-stopper for Molly Picon ("What a moment!"). Then Herman wrote four songs in three days on spec for "monster" David Merrickwho made him rich and famous from Dolly! but scarred him forever with sadistic mind-games on the road. (Another Dolly! scar: a plagiarism lawsuit that Herman settled so as not to kill the movie deal.) Mameexcept for the pain of Lucille Ball's movie-version singingand La Cage were Herman's greatest collaborative joys. In between came disappointments (Dear World and Mack and Mabelwhich became a London hit 20 years later), bitterness about being dismissed by the Sondheim-admiring theater clique, and years of depression. And along the way there's a late-blooming love life (including a long relationship ended by AIDS), houses to decorate, and loyal pals like Carol Channing and Angela Lansbury.
With generous excerpts from song lyrics, mini-tributes to a slew of stars, and a heap of that-number-brought-down-the-house anecdotes: a glossily upbeat rendition of "I Am What I Am," chiefly but not exclusively for fans.
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.42(w) x 9.51(h) x 1.12(d)
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