The Songs of Jerry Herman Come to the Stage in a Monthlong Tribute Guided by Andy Einhorn
The Pasadena Playhouse has recorded a revue of the Broadway legend's work.
Since the 1960s, the songs of Jerry Herman have been heard on Broadway in such shows as Milk and Honey, Mame, La Cage Aux Folles, and Hello, Dolly! (which ran on the Main Stem five times), along with various revues and special concerts.
Now, theatergoers can once again revel in Herman's timeless melodies and luscious lyrics courtesy of the Pasadena Playhouse's monthlong special production of You I Like: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Herman, an 85-minute virtual musical revue honoring the work of the beloved composer-lyricist, who died at the age of 88 in December 2019.
The show was conceived and music-directed by Andy Einhorn, who performed similar duties on Broadway's most recent Dolly revival in 2017. Einhorn, a longtime fan of Herman's, put together an earlier version of this show for the 92nd Street Y's legendary Lyrics & Lyricists series last February, and is thrilled for more audiences to witness his work.
"Fortunately for me, they did an archival copy of that show," say Einhorn. "After they released it, my friend Danny Feldman at the Pasadena Playhouse was able to watch it and called me about two hours afterwards saying that he wanted to do it here. That kind of offer is such a treat for someone like me, since once you've done something like a revue, you rarely get a chance to do it again. I have to say getting to re-explore this piece and make some changes to make it even better was a true joy."
Although theaters were already shut down due to Covid-19, Feldman wasn't interested in streaming a Zoom get-together, says Einhorn. "He said to me, 'We'll give you the stage for two days, you can bring any singers with you, we'll take all the necessary precautions. Getting to promote Jerry's work is so essential in this moment where we're heading to becoming a nation of healing and finding our passion again of embracing life to the fullest. He wrote shows and songs that sparked joy, brought out positivity in the face of adversity, granted his characters second chances, and reinforced the love of family and life."
As with many revues, the show will encompass its share of true musical theater standards, including "Time Heals Everything," "It's Today," and "It Only Takes a Moment," along with some lesser-known numbers from Herman's incredibly vast catalogue. "I think how you need to structure a show like this is that you have to feature songs people know and love, as well as embracing the sensuality of introducing people to songs they don't know but should," says Einhorn. "I think a song like 'Marianne' from The Grand Tour is the perfect example of the latter; it has a story that needs to be told. One thing about Jerry is that even his so-called flops had really great scores!"
Two other better-known songs that Einhorn knows audiences will adore are "I Am What I Am" and "Put on Your Sunday Clothes." Says Einhorn: "I don't think you have to be gay to appreciate "I Am What I Am" because it speaks to everyone. And "Sunday Clothes" is probably the finest showtune ever written, thanks in large part to its powerful and positive message. I know that is one reason why it stopped the show every night when we were on Broadway."
While Einhorn has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Barbara Cook, Audra McDonald, Bette Midler, and Vanessa Williams – as well as Dolly stars Bernadette Peters and David Hyde Pierce, who made special appearances on the January 10 "opening night" program – he's equally excited about the cast of You I Like.
"Ryan Vona and Andrea Ross did this show at the Y and I was so happy to work with them again," says Einhorn. "And, luckily, I found three fabulous people I've known for a while who happened to be in Los Angeles: Ashley Blanchet, Nick Christopher, and Lesli Margherita. I was so thrilled they all said yes immediately and I am so happy we got to share such a special experience. After so long, it was very emotional for all of us walking into an actual theater for the first time since the pandemic started."
The best of times may not be now, but Jerry Herman's spectacular songs remind us that they will get better.