Spotlight on

Jerry Herman

Showtune JH: No. Let me tell you what I've learned slowly through my career. I've learned not to write for a star. I was so disappointed that Merman didn't want to hear my score at that time. She said to David Merrick, "I don't want to spend my time in a dressing room. And if I come and I like it, I'll be frustrated, so please count me out." And here I had these Merman songs with big notes, several songs that are not in the score. And I was very, very devastated, so was David. Of course, it worked out brilliantly because Carol turned out to be the perfect choice. She turned it into a cartoon which is what The Matchmaker really is. It was just a wonderful turn of fate. It taught me not to write for a star, but to write for the character. And so I wrote Mame for no star. I wrote Mame for Mame.

VJ: Right.

JH: That score turned out to be one of my favorite pieces of work because it wasn't written for Angela Lansbury, or for Ann Miller, or for Celeste Holm. It was written for that lady that Patrick Dennis and Lawrence and Lee created. And that's how I wrote Miss Spectacular. I wrote it for a girl that I imagined and envisioned, and we don't know who is going to play her.

VJ: Is she a Mame or Dolly-type character?

JH: No, she's not. She's a young girl with great, great daydreams who wants to be somebody in show business. Her daydreams are my production numbers which makes the show very interesting. We go from reality to her imagination, and her imagination, of course, is boundless. And we can do anything we want. She pictures herself as the star of the Ziegfeld Follies show. She pictures herself as a princess in a tower. So, all these wonderful imaginings of this girl become the production numbers. It's very different from Dolly and Mame but, it's again a very strong female character.

VJ: Right. Does she achieve her dreams in the end?

JH: I don't want to tell you. Hahahaha.

VJ: Hahaha, okay, good.

Mame I hear there's a possibility that there is going to be a television movie of Mame. Is there anything with that?

JH: There is a possibility but it's just getting started.

VJ: That's wonderful. And I know how disappointed you were, and the whole world was disappointed with that film thing.

JH: God, yeah. And to be able to finally get it right is so thrilling to me.

VJ: Who knows? Maybe they'll do Dolly again too. Although, I like watching Dolly.

JH: I like the film more everytime I see it.

VJ: For some reason it's wearing well.

JH: Wearing well...that's very interesting. And it's a great credit to Barbra because she knew she was too young. She's a smart cookie.

VJ: Oh, yeah.

JH: She knew she was 27 years old playing a 60 year old woman. And she devised a way to do it that works today, that's lasted. She used that kind of pseudo May West, you know, whatever she devised. She's just so clever. And my God, she sang the hell out of it. I love the film much more than I did when it was released.

VJ: Me too. Is there a song that you regret having written, one that never sounded in performance like what it did in your head when you wrote it.?

JH: Yes, there is only one song that I regret having written...the title song from Dear World. It never worked for me the way I envisioned it. I envisioned it sung by a young like a six year old boy. And I envisioned it as having an ingenuous quality. I thought a kid talking about "please take your medicine dear world" would have been very charming. Because it became a Jerry Herman title song, the show got blown out of proportion. And that's a whole other conversation.

VJ: There's talk that Chita Rivera is going to do the revival.

JH: Yes, that's very possible. And that would be wonderful. The song was given to the star and it turned out to be a disappointment to me, but that's the only song I've ever regretted writing.

Mack and Mabel

VJ: I'll betcha you feel pretty good about the revival of Mack and Mabel a couple of years ago in London.

JH: I feel wonderful about it.

VJ: Theatre people in New York, and fans like myself, are still wondering why that didn't make it to Broadway.

JH: It should have and we're still trying to make it happen. Y'know who is going to do it? The Reprise Series out here. (L.A.)

VJ: Great. It's got a cult status...

JH: Yes. And they know that. I'm sure they're going to do a great production of it.

VJ: Did they just revive, or revise the book in London?

JH: Yes, revise.

VJ: I see...because that's really what was originally the...

JH: My sister did a beautiful job of revising it and it really is very touching. It's very fast and it's a good book.

VJ: Wonderful, can't wait to see it.

And, for my last question...what makes Jerry Herman happy?

Jerry Herman

JH: Doing what I'm doing right now...writing a new musical in my style...when everyone else is writing these dreary...(chuckling)...

VJ: (laughing along)

JH: ...dark things, and being able to put a new show on that will have color, and glamour, and humor, and melody makes me the happiest man in the world.

VJ: And you're excited about waiting for opening night?

JH: I'm so excited. I feel like a kid again.

Since this interview took place, the Mirage Hotel was acquired by the M.G.M. Grand. It's not certain whether they will continue with Mr. Wynn's plans for Miss Spectacular. One can only assume they will, as nothing has been announced for scrapping the production.

In 1964, I had played hooky from high school, hopped on a bus and headed to New York. My first Broadway show was Hello, Dolly!, and I've been hooked ever since...and I blame it all on Jerry Herman. - V.J.

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