Though An Evening With Jerry Herman, a revue starring the legendary composer of Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles, was supposed to run through Sept. 30 at Broadway's Booth Theatre, low box office grosses and attendance have forced the show to end its run Aug. 23. According to a spokesperson at Cromarty & Company (reached Aug. 17), Jerry Herman will have played 13 previews and 28 regular performances by its final Sunday matinee.
For the week ending Aug. 9, An Evening With Jerry Herman grossed $64,247 (out of a potential $306,017) and filled only 28.7 percent of its seats. Previous weeks hovered in the low 30 percent range.
An Evening With Jerry Herman opened July 28. The Booth has already booked its next tenant, singer/comedienne Sandra Bernhard, whose I'm Still Here...Damn It!, is scheduled to preview and open sometime in October, according to the Publicity Office.
In An Evening With Jerry Herman, the composer (Mame, The Grand Tour, Mack & Mabel) appears onstage with Lee Roy Reams and Florence Lacey. Manny Kladitis and Jon Wilner are producing, with tickets on sale at (212) 239-6200.
Those who can't get to the Booth to see the show can content themselves with an Arabesque cast recording of the revue, albeit an earlier version that played at the Rainbow & Stars cabaret venue. That mounting also featured Herman and Reams, joined by Karen Morrow. Florida theatregoers got a sneak-peek at the revue, Apr. 14-May 3, when "An Evening With Jerry Herman" took the stage at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse. Performed on the mainstage, the Herman show (with Lacey and Reams, and Jered Egan on bass) opened Apr. 17. Designing the production in Florida and again on Broadway are Kenneth Foy (set), Ken Billington (lighting) and Steve Shapiro (sound).
"I never expected to be performing on Broadway," Herman told Playbill On Line (July 6). "I hope I have the strength to do it! I'm in training right now. I just got off my treadmill, and I'm sleeping a lot. I feel like a boxer getting ready for a bout!" Herman's return is all the more remarkable considering he is not only HIV positive, as he discussed in his 1996 autobiography, "Showtune: A Memoir," but is recovering from fall 1997 heart surgery. Neither is mentioned in the show, which follows his career from Milk & Honey through La Cage aux Folles.
"Miraculously, I've come out of that very, very healthy. This is a celebration for me; I feel I'm well again. And every night when I walk out there and I'm able to do two hours, it's just incredible, I feel tremendous."
According to Herman, the idea for a revue started "when Rainbow & Stars called about six years ago and asked me to perform up there. And I said, `I'm not a performer, I write the stuff.' But when they told me there was a big audience to see me do it, I figured, why not go for it? My favorite theatre singers are Florence Lacey and Lee Roy Reams, who've been friends of mine for years, so I asked them to join in. The cabaret evening was so successful, it took my fear away. So I started doing this around the country. Last summer we did it at Westport, MA, and turned it into a theatre piece with more form. We worked on it more for three weeks at Coconut Grove in Florida."
Asked what surprises might be in store for audiences at the revue, "I think the audience will enjoy the stories the most. I tell a lot of backstage stories. They seem to enjoy that as much as the songs. Lee Roy also does "Penny In My Pocket," a song cut from Hello, Dolly!, and obscure tunes from Mack and Mabel and The Grand Tour. The show will be very informal...like coming into my living room for an evening." A previous Jerry Herman revue, Jerry's Girls, played on Broadway in 1985-86.
The revue is divided into chronologically-ordered segments from each of Herman's shows, starting with 1961's Milk and Honey and running to "The Best Christmas of All" from TV's "Mrs. Santa Claus." Among the lesser-known tunes are Reams doing "Mrs. S.L. Jacobowsky" (from The Grand Tour) and Lacey doing "I Don't Want To Know" (from Dear World).
Herman noted that another revue of his songs, "The Best of Times" (renamed from "Tune The Grand Up") opens in London in August. The composer is not involved in the production but promises to fly to see it as soon as his revue ends on Broadway. "It's a lovely piece put together by Paul Gilger and it'll play at the Bridewell Theatre," said Herman, "a very well regarded Off-Broadway-type theatre in London."
Invariably when talking to the composer, whose last original show was 1983's La Cage Aux Folles, the question comes up: When will we get a new Jerry Herman musical? "I am longing to write a new musical. My problem is, I don't want to write something just to write. I want something that thrills me. It's very hard to find. Plus I had a health problem and wasn't able to write for many years. Every other day I get scripts on my desk and wild letters and phone calls. But if they're not right for me, I have to be honest and pass on them. Something has to sing in my head. I knew the second I saw La Cage, or when Lawrence & Lee asked me to musicalize "Auntie Mame," that they were right. You wanna do something you're really proud of."
But nothing after all these years? "I'll give you an example," said Herman. "A Pocketful of Miracles. That's been offered to me about thirteen times in my life. But every time I look at the material, I say I should've done this in 1962. Then I toss it aside, because I don't know if I have anything new to contribute to it. After writing "I Am What I Am," I can't just write a mindless musical. Still, I know an idea will come along. They always do when I least expect it."
A rewritten version of Herman's 1969 musical Dear World was workshopped by Broadway's Roundabout Theatre in early Apr. 1998 with Chita Rivera in the lead. Roundabout is considering a major Broadway revival for the 1998-99 season.
Herman's other credits include The Grand Tour, Milk and Honey, Madame Aphrodite, Mack & Mabel and the annual TV special Mrs. Santa Claus, which was released on video October 1997.
Read Ken Mandelbaum's columns about Jerry Herman's musicals on disc: