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Episode 27

JERRY'S SHOW

10:20 P.M. Thursday, July 16
The Lounge of the Booth Theatre

"Oh, darling, I feel so much better now. One thing you can say about the Shuberts, their ladies' rooms are always spotless. How's my face?"

Fine.

"Don't you hate it when you cry and your mascara runs all over the place?"

Actually, I've never had that problem. Now I realize why you always bring that big pair of dark glasses with you. I always thought it was an affectation.

"Hell no. You need something to hide behind until you can get to the rest room and fix your face."

I called Joe Allen's. They can give us a table in half an hour.

"Wonderful. I'm starving. Do you know why good theatre is like good sex?"

Drema!

"Because you're always hungry afterwards. It's just a couple of blocks. Let's walk."

In this heat?

"You would prefer to try and find a hot, sticky cab?"

Let's walk. Thanks for dragging me here tonight. You were right. This is just what I needed.

"We both needed to relax after this afternoon. I thought the ceremony and the reception went rather well, didn't you?"

We should get some decent press this weekend. Frank told me he's doing something on it for Arts & Culture Sunday.

"I didn't see the kids around anyplace."

They took the weekend off. We're meeting on Monday to talk about what they're doing with the Neverland score. In a way, seeing Jerry's show tonight has cleared up my thinking on the direction I want them to take.

"How so?"

A lot of it has to do with cycles. I'm guessing that Dodger's Footloose is going to be a hit this season, but nothing much else will.

"Well! Thank you very much."

Musicals, I mean. Of course Rehearsal is going to be a hit.

"That's better. Why?"

What new musicals are in the works?

"Hmm, can you count Swan Lake?"

No.

"Well, there's Footloose, Jazz Singer -"

Is that going to happen?

"I don't know. Hal's Parade. Manilow's Harmony and that Tom Sawyer project have announced."

Maybe.

"Tommy's Easter Parade is possible. There's something called Morning Star and Elaborate Lives/Aida seems like a sure thing."

What else?

"Fosse, of course."

Okay, maybe a critical hit. But how long will Fosse run? Is it a tourist show? Can it payback?

"Your guess is as good as mine. Bright Lights, Big City. Civil War. Time and Again. I've heard good things about Over & Over. Are they still talking about A Star Is Born?"

Haven't heard anything lately.

"Do you want to count on Wise Guys?"

Would you?

"No. Let's see, that makes - what? - 14 in all."

How many of them do you think will actually open?

"Four, maybe five at the most."

How about revivals? What's coming?

"Not counting Chita's revue and the Aznavour concert, there's Little Me, On the Town, Peter Pan, Charlie Brown, and the RNT's sure to send over Oklahoma! They're still talking about Kiss Me Kate and Silk Stockings."

How many of those will open?

"Five, maybe six"

So we have another season where revivals outnumber new shows?

"It does look that way, doesn't it?"

Bearing that in mind, were you listening to the audience at Jerry's show tonight?

"Of course. You were, too."

What did you hear?

"They absolutely adored it."

No. I mean the buzz before and during intermission.

"Well, before the show, everyone was telling everybody else who Jerry Herman was."

Was there anybody who didn't already know?

"Of course not. They were all trying to top each other with stories about who had seen the most original productions of Jerry's shows."

And who had seen the best Dolly.

"Ethel really won out on that one, didn't she? And bitching about Chita's Dear World taking so long."

And when were those fat-assed producers going to realize that everybody wanted to see Mack & Mabel again.

"I don't believe that woman actually stood up and said that out loud."

And that five hundred people applauded it. What about intermission?

"Sheer ecstasy in the ladies' room. Everybody said they had almost forgotten what great show music sounded like."

Same thing in the men's room. Out on the street they were talking about what a great set of - uh - how attractive Florence looks.

"You can say tits, darling. I'm not offended. I know all about the men who avoid the rest room during intermission."

Drema, these were women talking.

"Oh."

Anyway, to get back to the music, say what you want about new trends in show music - and some of the new stuff is quite good - but, there is still a demand for Jerry's type of music, and from what I see that demand is bigger than it ever was.

"Do you think he'll ever write another show?"

He keeps saying he's ready and looking for the right project.

"There's a parlor game for you; come up with a book for a new Herman musical. Any ideas?"

No. I hear he's already been offered everything imaginable. But whatever it eventually turns out to be, I bet it's optimistic.

"Yes, I think I see that."

And the first thing next week I'm bringing our young lyricist and composer to Jerry's show.

"Oh, darling, you're not going to make them try and copy Herman's style for Neverland, are you?"

No, that would be disastrous. But I want the kids to sit through a live performance of his music and then analyze it for me. I know nothing about music other than I like it or I don't. I'm going to get then to explain to me what's special about the way Herman writes a lyric, what is it about his melodies that make them so hummable, what is it about the way his words float on his music that makes your heart beat a little faster when you hear it?

"Interesting. Is this simply a quest for general knowledge on your part, or do you have some ulterior motive?"

Drema, whatever do you mean?

"You just want them to explain to you why you like Herman's music, right? That's all?"

Of course.

"You're lying through your teeth."

Well, if they can explain Herman's music to me, then that means they really understand it themselves. And that knowledge should then inform how they approach the score for Neverland.

"And you couldn't just come out up front and tell them to make their score sound optimistic, like Jerry would do it?"

They're young and they're artists and they're headstrong and they already know everything they need to know about everything. What do you think?

"I think that, on occasion, you are an evil, evil man."

But do you think it will work?

"If they don't realize what you're doing, of course it will work."

Do you have a copy of Herman's autobiography? I lent mine out and never got it back. I think I want to read it again.

"Yes. I'll get it for you when you drop me off after dinner. But be sure to return it. I think I want to read it again myself."

Wonderfully recreating the golden age of the Broadway musical, Jerry Herman's Showtune: A 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 disappointment and tragedy. Jerry Herman has poured his love of life, music and some of the 20th century's biggest female stars into his memoirs. Aside from downloading his favorite backstage stories regarding the likes of Angela Lansbury, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, and Lucille Ball - who took Lansbury's role in the film version of Mame and was just awful - he takes time to settle accounts with producer David Merrick - who made him rich and famous from Dolly! but scarred him forever with sadistic mind-games on the road. Juicy bits involving Judy Garland - she wanted to step into the Mame role - and his lost musical Madame Aphrodite. Showtune is compete with more personal disappointments (Dear World and Mack and Mabel - which 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) but none of them put a wrinkle in the spiritual Sunday clothes he seems always to be wearing.

Showtune: A Memoir
by Jerry Herman, Marilyn Stasio
List Price: $24.95
Donald I Fine
ISBN: 1556115024


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