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One of the leading composers and lyricists of the American musical theater, Jerry Herman is the only one in its history to have three musicals run more than 1500 performances on Broadway: Hello, Dolly! (2,844), Mame (1,508), and La Cage aux Folles(1,761).
He is an inductee in the Theater Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Press Club in 1996. His other string of awards and honors includes multiple Tonys, Grammys, Drama Desk Awards, the Johnny Mercer Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award, and the Frederick Lowe Award.
His showtunes have become standards. His most famous composition, Hello, Dolly! was a No. 1 hit in the United States for Louis Armstrong, knocking The Beatles off the charts in 1964. Numerous tributes to Jerry Hermans work have been staged around the world and televised for PBS, the BBC, and many others.
Jerry Herman was part of Broadway's Old Guard, an avatar of the songwriting school of thought that valued dressing up a good story with a few hugely hum-worthy songs. The result was that classic Broadway formulation in which characters no matter what they might be doing at the time, suddenly burst into song.
Herman helped define the Broadway musical of the 1960s - big, brash star vehicles rich in melody, humor and character that became known as Big Lady Shows. He started to set up songs so there was a reason for these people to start singing.
According to Harman If you can give an audience a new world to spend two hours in, and forget their troubles, that show has a long life. Some of the supporting cast of figures pivotal to his musicals included Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Charles Nelson Reilly, Marge Champion, Arthur Laurents, Charles Strouse, Fred Ebb, George Hearn, and Phyllis Newman; as well as Michael Feinstein.
Under the tutelage of Hermans mother, a professional piano teacher, he was playing piano by the age of six. After high school, he got into the University of Miami. Initially he started to train as a designer but soon switched to studying drama. By the mid-'50s, he was playing piano in New York clubs and writing material for several well-known entertainers.
He also wrote for off Broadway shows, the first of which was I Feel Wonderful (1954), and had several songs in the revue Nightcap, which ran for nearly a year. Jerry Herman enjoyed his first real success with his score for the Broadway musical Milk and Honey, which ran for 543 performances followed by the smash hit Hello,Dolly! in 1964.
It stayed at the St. James Theater in New York for nearly seven years. Mame was performed in 1966 and its famous Herman song, If He Walked into My Life was recorded by Eydie Gorme, becoming a pop standard and winning a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Female in 1967. Next came the shows Dear World (1969), Mack & Mabel (1974), and The Grand Tour (1979).
After the phenomenal success of ''Hello, Dolly!'' and ''Mame'' in the 60's, some of these next several shows got disappointing receptions from critics and audiences, and it wasn't until the 1983 blockbuster ''La Cage aux Folles '' that the composer felt a sense of popular redemption. It was followed by Jerrys Girls in 1985.
After a hiatus of almost 10 years his next show Mrs. Santa Claus came. During his break Jerry Herman left New York, his lifelong home, to move to Los Angeles. In his 1996 memoir, ''Showtune,'' Mr. Herman wrote that illness, the death of a lover and a nagging sense that his kind of music had gone out of fashion were among the reasons he stopped writing after ''La Cage.''
In the intervening years, contemporaries like Stephen Sondheim and John Kander and Fred Ebb continued to churn out musicals; what seems apparent is that they had far greater capacities for responding to changing musical tastes. But his status as Broadway's leading proponent of carpe diem was strongly established.
In December of 1996, the two-hour musical, Mrs. Santa Claus starring Angela Lansbury, was shown on CBS television. It was Hermans first creative contribution to the medium. In 2003 he also appeared throughout the country in Hello, Jerry! A Musical Salute to Jerry Herman along with singer-actress Karen Morrow, Jason Graae of Forever Plaid and Ragtime, and Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle in Disney's animated musical Beauty and the Beast.
In August 2008 Herman was center-stage for an evening of unforgettable music and memories, with some of Broadways best singer/actors, including Jason Graae, Debbie Gravitte and Ron Raines, performing Hermans most beloved songs, led by acclaimed conductor Don Pippin at the piano.
Showtune, a revue of his lifes work, was also performed in regional theatres around the country. Jerry has also co written a book titled The Lyrics which offers all of the lyrics to Herman's well-loved songs along with rare production photographs from all of his shows.
It includes early lyrics from Herman's first Broadway revues and shows, songs cut from his best-loved shows, and new lyrics. In addition to the lyrics, Herman offers his personal reminiscences and comments on the lyrics and the shows.
For the fan of Broadway Theater this book will be a real treasure. All of Hermans shows have been produced many times, in both professional and amateur productions around the world.