It became kind of a running gag for journalists interviewing legendary theatre composer Jerry Herman. They'd ask if he was working on anything new, and he'd mention that piles of scripts and ideas would come his way, but nothing really felt right to work on. However, that's about to change. Herman told Playbill On-Line in a Brief Encounter interview that he and Robert Freedman are collaborating on a new musical destined to open at the Mirage Hotel in the year 2000.
Said Herman, "Steve Wynn has commissioned a musical from me, and he's building a theatre for it. The show is called Miss Spectacular, and it's going to open at a new theatre in the Mirage Hotel... I've already written five songs -- and this is the first writing I've done in several years. I'm having the best time!"
Freedman penned the book for the highly-watched TV "Cinderella" that starred Brandy. He'll do the Spectacular libretto, while Herman, as always, writes the music and lyrics. Frank Galati, who helmed Ragtime, will direct.
Asked about the show's plot, Herman said, "It's about a girl from Indiana who's a finalist at a Las Vegas contest for `Miss Spectacular.' It's a lovely story. It combines the spectacle expected from Las Vegas with a very human and very touching love story, which has never been done before. Most of the Vegas shows are these mindless revues, like `Jubilee.' This is Broadway-style musical with very lovely characters and big, big productions."
Continued Herman, "It's a very classy project. And it's one of those times when songs start to pour out of me, and I can't stop them. That's when I know I'm doing the right thing. It's happened twice in my career: with Mame and La Cage Aux Folles. I could not stop the music." For years, Herman was tempted to work on an adaptation of the film "Pocketful of Miracles," but he eventually lost interest, and he hasn't done a new show since La Cage (though he scored the TV musical "Mrs. Santa Claus). He has, however, helped work on a revised version of Mack & Mabel, his most unexpected -- and spirit-crushing -- Broadway flop. The new version, which also incorporates changes made for the award winning London mounting a couple of seasons back, plays at Barrington Stage in MA through July 18.
Broadway audiences got an overview of Herman's career last summer, when An Evening With Jerry Herman played at the Booth Theatre.
-- By David Lefkowitz