The composer-lyricist of Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Dear World, Mack and Mabel, The Grand Tou, La Cage aux Folles and Jerry’s Girls, Jerry Herman, has passed away. In the 1980s his musicals ruled the great white way, with songs that stuck in your head.
Herman was born in July 10, 1931, in New York City and raised in Jersey City. His parents, worked summers as musicians in the Catskills, encouraged him to pursue music. Jerry took up piano and spent his summers at Stissing Lake Camp where he directed the camp’s theatrical productions and began writing music. His first musical was Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun he at 11.
When he was 17, Frank Loesser, encouraged him to keep writing where he did at the University of Miami, which had a strong theatre company.
Moving to New York he produced the Off-Broadway revue I Feel Wonderful, which were songs he had written in college. He also played in the orchestra. It ran for 48 performances at the Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village. In 1958 Nightcap, another revue, ran for two years at a jazz club called Showplace. It starred Charles Nelson Reilly, who appeared in several Mr. Herman shows. The Showplace hosted his next revue Parade, in 1960. transferring to the Players Theatre in Greenwich Village.
Jerry Herman’s first Broadway show was Milk and Honey, starring opera singers Robert Weed and Mimi Benzell, as well as Yiddish theatre great Molly Picon. It ran for 541 performances and his first Tony nomination.
Producer David Merrick, who presented The Matchmaker, wanted a musical version and 3 years later hired Herman for the job, but first he had to write songs to prove his worth. In a week he wrote he wrote “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “I Put My Hand In,” and “Dancing.” The show won 10 Tony Awards.
Mame, won another Tony nomination and gave another hit to Herman.
Dear World (1969), ran for four months. Mack and Mabel, only played two months. The Grand Tour, in 1979, the same. Herman contributed a few songs to the 1980 hit A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine. In 1983 La Cage aux Folles, earned two Tonys and produced a gay anthem that is still being done today. The show ran for more than four years.
A revue called Jerry’s Girls became popular and toured the U.S. in the ‘80s. He appeared on Broadway in 2004 in An Evening With Jerry Herman. He wrote a few songs for the 1996 television movie Mrs. Santa Claus,” which starred Lansbury, and Miss Spectacular, a proposed Las Vegas show that only gave way to a star-studded studio recording.
Jerry Herman represents an era of tune filled shows that you wanted to learn and still live on in the cabaret and clubs. His song styling will be missed.
He is survived by Terry Marler, his partner of many years.