Hello Jerry...

I was going to do a year wrap up, or even a decade wrap up, but then I heard Jerry Herman died.  Hence this post.

Jerry (I didn't know him, but I'm going with Jerry anyway), wrote some of my favorite songs and favorite musicals.  And my family has a bunch of memories to go along with them.

My mother went to see "Hello Dolly!"  when it was first on Broadway.  (She didn't go with my dad!  Shocking!)  She still remembers how amazing Carol Channing was when she walked down that runway to the title song.  I can imagine how thrilling it must have been as the music swelled.  The songs and the cast!  In addition to the legendary Carol Channing there was Charles Nelson Reilly and Eileen Brennan! There have been plenty of amazing revivals, but I'd give my eye teeth to have been in the audience for the original production.

The first musical I did in high school was "Mame."  It remains one of my favorite memories of high school theater.  It was a wonderful show and to this day I can recall rehearsing several of the big numbers ("It's Today", "Open a New Window" and "Mame" immediately come to mind.)  It was an opportunity to work with a variety of people that I might not have ordinarily become friends with.  It was this show and this experience that made me become part of the drama "program" (as it were) and appreciate all the work that goes into doing a show.  Finally, "Mame" is wonderful uplifting show that reminds us that life is a banquet and we shouldn't be the poor suckers who are starving to death!  We need to LIVE!  

When I was in college I was lucky enough to see (mostly) the original cast of "La Cage Aux Follies."  The show was amazing.  I remember being in tears at the end of the first act when George Hearn belted out "I Am What I Am" and then powerfully walked (stormed?) off the stage.  It's an anthem for ALL of us; no matter who we are.  We ARE who we are and we should not be ashamed of that.  We should be PROUD of ourselves. 

When he won a Tony award for "La Cage Aux Follies" Jerry Herman said:  "This award forever shatters a myth about the musical theater. There’s been a rumor around for a couple of years that the simple, hummable show tune was no longer welcome on Broadway. Well, it’s alive and well at the Palace Theatre."  Some said it was a dig at Stephen Sondheim; something that Jerry denied.  I believe him.  Jerry Herman wrote and LIVED music that might have been "simple" but was also full of joy.  

When I think of Jerry Herman, I will remember the joy his music brought not just to me, but to all who know his music.  And I reflect on the he rousing, "The Best of Times,” from "La Cage Aux Follies  which not unlike "It's Today" reminds us to take advantage of now; to live life to the fullest and appreciate it.

“So hold this moment fast
And live and love
As hard as you know how
And make this moment last
Because the best of times is now
Is now, is now

Now, not some forgotten yesterday
Now, tomorrow is too far away

So hold this moment fast
And live and love
As hard as you know how
And make this moment last
Because the best of times is now, is now."

The legacy of Jerry Herman for me will always be to remember that life is meant to be lived and celebrated.  His music was full of joy; and as another composer once said:  "What's wrong with that?  I'd like to know. " (Ok, so Paul McCartney was talking about "silly" love songs, but...)  As we enter a new decade shouldn't we all take up the cry that was given to us by Jerry Herman in "Mame" and  try to "Dance to a new rhythm.  Whistle a new love song. Toast with a new vintage. Open a new window ev'ry day!"


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