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Jerry’s Girls

A glorious tribute to the music of Jerry Herman with song stylists Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Christine Pedi and Stephanie Umoh comprising the cast.

Stephanie Umoh, Christine Pedi and Stephanie D’Abruzzo in a scene from The York Theatre Company’s revival of “Jerry’s Girls” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

What do Dolly Gallagher Levi, Auntie Mame Dennis, The Countess Aurelia, Mabel Norman and female impersonator Zaza have in common? All of these ladies have been musicalized by composer/lyricist Jerry Herman and his greatest hits are back in a gorgeously sung revival of Jerry’s Girls as part of The York Theatre Company’s “Musicals in Mufti” series, “musical theatre gems in staged concert performances.” Led by a cast of three talented song stylists, Stephanie D’Abruzzo (Avenue Q), Christine Pedi (“The Lady of a 1000 Voices”) and Stephanie Umoh (Ragtime), the score is as melodic and buoyant as one could wish.

The revival at the York is being seen in yet a new version of the show that began as a cabaret in 1981 and went to Broadway in 1985. Created by director Larry Alford, choreographer Wayne Cilento and composer Herman, the original show included new songs written especially for the show, only one of which remains in the revival. However, as directed by Pamela Hunt (The Musical of Musicals – The Musical), this version of Jerry’s Girls organizes the songs more faithfully around each show and includes the greatest hits from Hello, Dolly!, Mack and Mabel, Milk and Honey, Mame, two numbers from Dear World, and ending with a medley from La Cage aux Folles. Along the way are also two unfamiliar numbers from Herman’s 1960’s revue Parade.

Stephanie Umoh and Stephanie D’Abruzzo as they sing “Bosom Buddies” in The York Theatre Company’s revival of “Jerry’s Girls (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

While there is no narration, the numbers are backed by Justin West’s projection design which combines photographs of the show’s logos, stars of the original shows, cast albums covers, and historic documents of the periods. Among the unfamiliar songs are “Just Leave Everything to Me,” written for the movie version of Hello, Dolly!, “Two A Day,” a tribute to vaudeville written for Jerry’s Girls, “Showtune,” from Parade, from Herman’s pre-Broadway days and later rewritten as “It’s Today” for Mame, and two of the three songs Herman wrote for A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine. “Hello, Dolly!” sung in three versions by the ladies becomes the first act finale, with the alternate versions, “Hello, Deli”, and “Hello, Lyndon,” Lyndon Johnson’s campaign song, sung as well, ending in a delightful trio.

The songs appear to be assigned to the singers based on their special skills: D’Abruzzo sings the theatrical songs, Pedi sings all of the specialty numbers, and Umoh sings the impassioned torch-style songs. Pedi channels Shirley Temple in “Tap Your Troubles Away,” Jeannette McDonald in the hilarious slam of co-star “Nelson,” and Jane Connell in “Gooch’s Song (What Do I Do Now?).” D’Abruzzo adds theatrical sparkle to Mabel Norman’s “Wherever He Ain’t,”  “Look What Happened to Mabel” and “Time Heals Everything,” as well as the hauntingly lovely, “I Don’t Want to Know,” from Dear World.

Christine Pedi with music director Eric Svejcar at the piano in a scene from The York Theatre Company’s revival of “Jerry’s Girls (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Umoh wows with impassioned renditions of a moody, “It Only Takes A Moment,” (Hello, Dolly!) an angry, “I Won’t Send Roses” (Mack and Mabel) and a fervent version of “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles. Among D’Abruzzo and Umoh’s duets are the viciously satiric “Bosom Buddies” from Mame and the lovely “Kiss Her Now” from Dear World. All three ladies join their voices in rousing versions of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” (Hello, Dolly!), “Milk and Honey,” the title song from Mame, and as the second act finale, “The Best of Times” from La Cage aux Folles.

Three groupings make little mini-musicals: the Vaudeville Medley, the Movies Medley and a final group of four songs from Herman’s last Broadway musical, La Cage aux Folles. And of course all of the most famous Herman anthems are here, the title songs and the songs most identified with each show. Although the actresses do not get to speak, Hunt’s direction is so smooth that the songs segue beautifully one into the other. Musical director Eric Svejcar beautifully handles the task of accompanying all 32 songs at the piano. While the performers have books in hand, they rarely use them so that Jerry’s Girls looks like a full production. This is a fitting tribute to the greatest hits of Jerry Herman, a consummate composer/lyricist for the theater.

Jerry’s Girls (through August 13, 2017)

Musicals in Mufti

The York Theater Company in association with Riki Kane Larimer

The Theater at Saint Peter’s, 619 Lexington Avenue, enter or 54th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-935-5820 or visit http://www.YorkTheatre.org

Running time: two hours including one intermission

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (397 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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