Jason Graae: Perfect Hermany
The Broadway veteran's loving tribute to composer-lyricist Jerry Herman is 75 minutes of non-stop entertainment.
Armed with the timing of the expert stand-up comic, a delicious array of facial expressions, and the uncanny ability to engage the audience as conspirators in his tomfoolery, Graae -- who first debuted this show in Los Angeles -- often leaves spectators in stitches. It's the casual asides, as much as the stories and anecdotes, that often provoke guffaws, and director Lee Tannen has been wise to let Graae let loose as often as he can.
Graae also brings right the just seen-it-all attitude to "Tap Your Troubles Away," but gains added yuks with a bit of physical comedy while doing a little tap dancing. He also engages in a bit of witty repartee with a bartender during a cleverly constructed medley that includes "Wherever He Ain't," "So Long, Dearie," and "Bosom Buddies" towards the show's end.
But intriguingly, Graae -- who posseses a lovely, flexible tenor -- doesn't otherwise draw on Herman's innately comic material, instead focusing on his ballads, often to beguiling effect. His rendition of the beautiful love song "Marianne" (from The Grand Tour) is perfectly executed; while he brings genuine sweetness to "My Best Girl" (from Mame) -- in which he accompanies himself on piano. (For the rest of the evening, the superb John Boswell handles the 88s.)
Smartly, Graae mixes up some of Herman's best-known songs -- including highly impassioned versions of "I Am What I Am," "Before The Parade Passes By" and "I Don't Want to Know," with lesser-known tunes from the songwriter's catalogue, notably the moving "One Person" (from Dear World) and "Loving You" (from the film version of Mame), which is nicely paired with Hello Dolly's "It Only Takes a Moment."
Audience members expecting great biographical insight to Herman, a la Andrea Marcovicci, may be the only ones slightly disappointed in the proceedings. Graae shares a few tidbits about Herman -- both personal and professional -- here and there, but mostly lets the music speak for itself.