He stood in line at the TKTS booth in Duffy Square. What would he choose to see today that he hadn't seen before? He had been using TKTS for twenty-five years and had met all kinds of people while in line. The teenage girl in front of him was reading a book. Obviously, her mind was made up, and she needn't look at the boards to see what was playing.
"So, what are you seeing this evening?", he asked as she closed the book.
"I'm taking my friend to see An Evening With Jerry Herman.
"Oh." He hadn't thought of seeing that. "Have you ever seen a Jerry Herman musical?" By looking at her, he figured she was only a few years old around the time La Cage was playing just across the street at the Palace.
"I've seen a video of La Cage aux Folles closing night, if that counts."
"What's your favorite show of his?"
"Dear World. I love the French sound the score has, and it contains his best song, "I Don't Want To Know".
"Any other composers you like?"
"Sondheim. After Sondheim and Herman, probably Charles Strouse. He may not be the most famous or have written the greatest shows, but his music is almost always gorgeous, no matter what flaws the book or lyrics may have. He is truly the most under-appreciated composer in theater history."
"And your friend? Is he a Herman fan, too? Is he your age, too?"
"He's a big fan. No, he's younger. He's sixteen."
"Are there many people your age who admire Mr. Herman's work?"
"I don't think so. We performed it a lot in musical theater class, and a lot of my friends thought it was a bit corny. The shock was my friend Greg. He and I seem to love the same shows with the exception of Rent. I told him to go see Jerry. He said, 'No. Jerry is everything that's wrong with the musical theater.'"
"Obviously, you don't agree."
"I think Jerry Herman is going out with the incoming of commercial shows. The style right now seems to be shows like Rent, The Lion King, Les Mis - shows that don't resemble a Jerry Herman show in the least. But I do feel that he still has a young audience. Many high schools put on Hello Dolly, and the students fall in love with it. The score is catchy, the book is funny, and it entertains. It may not be their favorite like Phantom of the Opera. But they know it's out there, and they enjoy it. I think as long as Jerry Herman is being performed, people will admire him just for having the classic showtune sound that nobody else can write quite like he does."
She purchased her two tickets, looked at the seat location, and beamed, "Front row, center!"
He walked up to the window. "Two for An Evening With Jerry Herman, p lease."
While walking over to Barrymore's, he passed the Booth Theater and looked at the marquee. The Mack & Mabel, Hello Dolly, Mame, Dear World, La Cage aux Folles logos were all up there. Had time flown by so fast? He remembered seeing every one of those shows in their original runs. Like the girl, he was a huge Jerry Herman fan.
Before the house lights went down, he pointed her out to his theater companion. "There she is, the one I told you about. She's probably the biggest Herman fan in the house. Wonder where her friend is?"
Jerry came out and explained how he was to become an architect but went into the theater because of one fateful day with Frank Loesser. The show opened with "Shalom" from Milk and Honey. After a few numbers, her friend arrived. Jerry, Florence Lacey and Lee Roy Reams performed number after number from I>Hello Dolly and Mame. The performers obviously noticed the two in the front row who seemed to be having the time of their lives ... if applause was any indication.
In act two, Florence Lacey delivered a knockout "I Don't Want To Know", and the duo jumped to their feet giving a spontaneous standing ovation. When Reams sang "La Cage aux Folles" he had some fun with the boa ... smiling as he tossed it over the heads of the two in the front row. Later on, his rendition of "I Am What I Am" was both powerful and moving, as was Jerry's closing number, "I'll Be Here Tomorrow".
Outside the theater he saw them standing at the stage door. "Wait," he said to his friend. "I want to see what they are up to. "
Florence Lacey came out first, saw the duo and gave them a big hug. Then out came Jerry. More hugs and he chatted with them, too. Lee Roy came out last and also talked to them and then started writing something down.
"Interesting. I'll be right back." He walked over to the happy Herman fans.
"Looks like you two had a ball tonight. What did they have to say to you?"
"Florence thanked us for being so enthusiastic. She said Jerry was so happy to see us enjoying the show. And then Jerry thanked us for coming, too, telling us how good it feels that people our age still enjoy his music."
"And Lee Roy, what did he say?"
"He said, 'I'm so glad you two waited. I want your names and your numbers because you have to come see us again.' He said the three of them loved our enthusiasm and wanted us to come opening night or another night if we couldn't make it." The two then left with their autographed Playbills.
And Jerry Herman walked through Shubert Alley. Nary a head turned as fans of Chicago were waiting for Bebe to exit. It was pointless anyhow. The younger ones would have said, "Jerry who?" Unless they had read "Showtune", Jerry's autobiography, they wouldn't know that he owned Broadway at one time, running from one theater to another to catch the showstopping title numbers in Mame and Hello Dolly.
Yet, the King of Broadway knows for sure that his music will live on well into the next generation, at least with two Hermites who sat front row center at the Booth Theater.
He looked at his friend, "It's so nice to have him back where he belongs."
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