A bittersweet mist of sadness hung over the 92nd Street Y’s latest Lyrics & Lyricists edition, Jerry Herman: You I Like. Herman had passed away just two months before, so this Lyrics & Lyricists had the burden—a sweet burden—of honoring this musical theater genius which it did with grace and warmth, displaying a cornucopia of beautifully arranged and staged gems from Jerry Herman’s Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
Music director Andy Einhorn who conceived the show was a genial, informed host. Having worked as the music supervisor and music director for the most recent revival of Hello, Dolly!, he was at times overcome with emotion as the show, directed by Cady Huffman, revealed all of Herman’s richness and, yes, sophistication. Listening to and quoting Herman really got to Einhorn whose beautiful arrangements buoyed all the songs.
Huffman ironically made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Herman’s La Cage aux Folles (1983) so she must have felt right at home. From that show Huffman sang a sweet “Look over There” and the powerful “I Am What I Am” which has become an almost sacred song for the LGBTQ community. She found all the satire in “It Takes a Woman” from Hello, Dolly! and the manic ego in “Just Leave Everything to Me” from the underwhelming film version of that show.
The show that Einhorn and Huffman lovingly staged in the 92nd Street Y’s historic Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall swept them and four terrific singers through Herman’s pathos, humor, wit and wisdom via a generous program of more than thirty songs.
Quentin Earl Darrington dazzled in the program’s first number, “I Belong Here” from The Grand Tour (1979), and, later with “If He Walked Into My Life” from Mame (1966) and the philosophical “A Little More Mascara” also from La Cage.
Rich-voiced Bryonha Marie Parham went from the lovely “Shalom” (1961’s Milk and Honey) to the wistful “Anne On My Arm” (La Cage) and on to Dolly Levi’s optimistic anthem, “Before the Parade Passes By.”
Andrea Ross used her astoundingly earthy vocal charms on two completely different songs from Dear World (1969): the ironic comment on the environment, “The Spring of Next Year” and the lushly romantic “I’ve Never Said I Love You.” She sang an almost unbearably lovely combination of “It Only Takes a Moment,” including its romantic verse, and the urgent love song, “Let’s Not Waste a Moment” (Milk and Honey). She almost—but not quite—out-Gooched Jane Connell (Mame’s original Agnes Gooch) in her delightfully shrill “Gooch’s Song (What Do I Do Now?)” with her belly enlarged by a pillow.
Last, but certainly not least, was Ryan Vona. He held the audience in his hand as he sat at the edge of the stage building “I Don’t Want to Know” (Dear World) into a furious indictment. His lilting “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” (Dolly) and sweet “Marianne” (Grand Tour) showed his range. He also sang the earliest Herman work on the program, “Confession to a Park Avenue Mother” from Parade (1960) in which a young man from the stuffy, rich East Side of Manhattan has to tell his mother that he is in love with a West Side Girl! (Horrors!) Vona knew just how to sing this to this particular audience.
Of course, the cast harmonized in various combinations, most notably in “It’s Today” (Mame) and the hopeful “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow” (Grand Tour). The show ended with all five singers leading a sing-along of “The Best of Times” (Cage).
John Kelly’s lighting turned a concert into an event and Dan Scully’s projections provided precious images that also helped provide moving background to the songs.
Einhorn’s sensational band, soloists all, consisted of Chad Smith (woodwinds), Jeremy Miloszewicz (trumpet), Scott Kuney (guitar), Mark Vanderpoel (bass) and Perry Cavari (drums).
92Y Lyrics & Lyricists Series: Jerry Herman: You I Like (February 22-24, 2020)
92nd Street Y
Theresa L. Kaufman Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-415-5500 or visit http://www.92Y.org
Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission