Music and lyrics: Jerry Herman
Director: Kate Golledge
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Jerry Herman is what he is – a master of traditional Broadway musicals. He is also the creator of some formidable female characters, even if the best known of them are a little too seasoned to be called “girls” and, in the case of La Cage Aux Folles, they are really not female at all.
This cabaret-style revue of songs from Herman shows started life in New York and comes to London featuring three sassy dames, all leading musical comedy stars who are well capable of giving plenty of welly to material like this. The stage is set up to resemble a star’s dressing room, with a grand piano at the side and hanging on the wall are photographs of Jerry’s real life “girls” – Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Barbra Streisand – seemingly to remind this show’s stars of what they have to live up to.
Herman had three Tony Award winning smash hits on Broadway – Hello Dolly, Mame and La Cage… – and another which flopped, but has since grown in stature and is now considered by many to contain his finest score – Mack and Mabel. These four shows provide the majority of the songs in this revue.
Anna-Jane Casey, fresh from a successful run in Forbidden Broadway, Sarah-Louise Young, a cabaret regular who has worked with Fascinating Aida, and Ria Jones, star of countless musicals, are just about perfect for this blend of comedy, pathos and gutsy determination. They combine for a hilarious version of Tap Your Troubles Away, bringing into the dance routine accompanists Edward Court and Sophie Byrne, and then, leading up to the interval, they take the title songs from Dolly and Mame, along with When Mabel Comes in the Room to perform a memorable medley.
It seems unfair to single out any one of the three stars for special praise, but it has to be said that Jones grasps at every opportunity to steal the show. Starting with a wonderfully self-deprecating response to Take it All Off (written for this revue), she then fills in for the absence of an authentic “Mack” with a stunning version of the beautiful I Won’t Send Roses, breaks our hearts with Time Heals Everything and climaxes by bringing the house down with I Am What I Am, gaining in conviction and confidence with every line.
Jerry Herman has enjoyed a mini-renaissance in the last couple of years with UK premieres of “forgotten” shows Dear World and The Grand Tour. This revue should add to his reputation and next up is a revival of Mack and Mabel, in Chichester and then touring from the Summer. The appetite is well and truly whetted.
Runs until 15th March | Photo: Darren Bell