By: Paulanne SImmons
Fred Barton, the producer, orchestrator and host of An Evening of Jerry Herman, told the audience early in the evening that Herman is not only a composer but also a philosopher who believes "Itʼs today and it wonʼt last." Herman also loved show music. And it was those two facts that brought Barton to Herman.
The result is a spectacular song and dance fest performed at Pace Universityʼs Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts on March 1. It featured a large cast of singers led by Klea Blackhurst and Beth Leavel, both of whom played Dolly Gallagher Levi this past summer, Blackhurst at Goodspeed and Leavel at the Cape Playhouse, and Lee Roy Reams, who has both appeared in and directed Hello Dolly!
The Scott Thompson Dancers turned several songs into full-fledged production numbers. And the 13-piece Fred Barton Orchestra gave the evening the feel of a veritable Broadway event.
The show featured many of Hermanʼs best known songs, such as "I Am What I Am" and "The Best of Times" from La Cage aux Folles and an especially enjoyable mash-up of the title songs from Mame and Hello Dolly! as well as numbers from lesser known works such Hermanʼs off-Broadway revue, Parade, and the unproduced Miss Spectacular.
There were even a few songs not in the original Hello Dolly! that were planned for Ethel Merman and only put back in when she stepped into the role: "Love, Look in My Window" and "World, Take Me Back" sung by Klea Blackhurst, who is best known for her tribute to Ethel Merman, Everything the Traffic Will Allow. And for those who love Herman through thick and thin, there were songs from his less successful works: Mack and Mabel and Dear World.
It was a real treat to see that Barton has found fresh talent in Lianne Marie Dobbs, A J Hunsucker and Jese Luttrell, whose singing and stage presence proved that musical theater has a bright future.
Although Herman was not at the event, he sent a note saying how happy he was to know his work was in such talented hands.