Revue: Jerry Herman’s Music at the Incline

Review by Doug Iden

Featuring “hummable” tunes and witty, conversational lyrics, the music of Broadway composer/lyricist Jerry Herman is highlighted in Jerry’s Girls playing now at the Incline Theater.  The Golden Age of Broadway melded veterans such as Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin with a crop of extraordinary newcomers including Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Lerner and Loewe, Kander and Ebb and, of course, Jerry Herman.

Known for bright, uplifting lyrical stories and songs, Herman shined with musicals including Mame, Hello Dolly, Mack and Mabel, La Cage Aux Folles, etc., all of which are featured in the revue/cabaret format of Jerry’s Girls.  There is no plot, per se, and no dialogue but the show tells the history of Herman’s shows through his music which is sung and danced by a very talented group of women including principle’s Cassidy Steele, Kaitlin McCullough, Annie Schneider and ensemble members Reilly Grace, Annie Jennings, Chloe Esmeier and Rebecca Mactaggart.

The show opens with a four women onstage band and the ensemble enumerating the many actresses that have appeared in Herman’s shows to the tune of “It’s Today” (from Mame).  Then, in a segment called Meet Jerry’s Girls, various members of the cast sing songs from Hello Dolly including “It Takes a Woman”, “Just Leave Everything to Me” and the ensemble piece “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”.  The highlight of the segment is Steele’s rendition of “It Only Takes a Moment”.

Then, we segue into a Vaudeville Medley from Parade, Mack and Mabel and others starting with the ensemble introducing “Two a Day” (referring to the number of daily shows in Vaudeville).  Two large poster props depicting typical Vaudeville and Burlesque attractions help introduce many of the songs in this segment including “Tap Your Troubles Away” featuring Cassidy and two ensemble members in a classic tap-dancing routine.  Cassidy and McCullough sing the witty “Bosom Buddies” where Mame and best friend Vera eviscerate each other’s careers with lyrics dripping with sarcasm.  Steele follows with an enthusiastic “So Long Dearie”.  The highlight is a pseudo-Burlesque number by Schneider “Take It All Off” with the crew eagerly anticipating a striptease followed by a parody of an older woman in the appearance of a topless dress singing “Put It Back On”.  

The final segment in Act One is called Jerry’s Showstoppers featuring “Shalom” and the title song “Milk and Honey” sung by McCullough and the ensemble.  This is my personal favorite Herman score and one of only a few Broadway shows featuring love among seniors at the dawn of the birth of modern Israel.   Schneider does a bravura “Before the Parade Passes By” followed by an excellent duet “Kiss Her Now” with McCullough and Grace from Dear World.  The first act ends with a cute take on the “Hello Dolly” number with the ensemble dressed as waiters and Dueling Dolly Divas played by the principles in matching red dresses.

The second act features songs from Mame, Mack and Mabel and La Cage Aux Folles.  The ensemble and Schneider, dressed as Santa Claus, regale with “We Need a Little Christmas” but then Schneider takes off her costume and reveals a pregnant Miss Gooch in the comic tune “What Do I Do Now”.  McCullough delivers a gut-wrenching version of Herman’s best torch song “If He Walked Into My Life”.  

The Movie’s Medley opens with two ensemble members dressed in old style usher uniforms walking down the aisle and sitting in movie theater seats on the stage, soon joined by the other members singing “Just Go To The Movies” and “Movies Were Movies” based upon the real life silent film pioneers and on-again, off-again lovers, Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand.  Cassidy sings the haunting “Time Heals Everything” with McCullough’s rendition of “I Won’t Send Roses”.

The final segment highlights La Cage (based upon a French film comedy) with Schneider intoning “Song on the Sand” and McCullough singing the gay anthem “I Am What I Am”.  The entire cast concludes with “The Best of Times”.

The static set by Brett Bowling is simple but effective with a single stairway mid-stage leading to a small balcony which shows life-sized theater posters of the principal shows featured.  Actresses also enter through curtains on the balcony.  A caricature of Herman is projected onto the stage.  The costuming by Mattison Emilee is extensive with many of the women dressed like the characters would have worn on the Broadway stage.  Director Dan Doerger and Music Director Linda Abbott move the show along briskly.

Of the principles’ Cassidy has an enormous personality, good dancing skills and is equally facile at both comedic and dramatic songs.  Schneider’s songs were mostly comedic, adding needed lightness to the production while McCullough belted Herman’s slower songs well.  The ensemble, all current students in Musical Theater, collectively did a good job singing and dancing.

Overall, this is a fun show which moves along briskly and features most of Herman’s best songs.  The singing and dancing were very good.  Don’t expect a major plot but sit back and be entertained.  There is a lot of humor in the show and some interesting staging of the songs.So, invite your best Matchmaker, your favorite eccentric Auntie and a few silent movie buffs to join you at the Incline Theater for Jerry’s Girls running through July 31.  Their next production is Carousel running from August 17 through September 11. Contact the Box Office at (513) 241-6550 to Purchase by Phone.

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