Composer/lyricist Jerry Herman is by any definition musical theatre royalty. Being responsible for some of the biggest and longest running Broadway and West-End hits, his shows are pretty much always being performed somewhere in the world, so I was really excited to head to the St James Studio to see a new production of “Jerry’s Girls”. Originally created in 1981 then expanded in 1984, “Jerry’s Girls” takes the audience on a wonderful musical journey through many of Jerry Herman’s most memorable songs including extracts from ‘Hello Dolly’, ‘Mame’, ‘Mack and Mabel’ and ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ to name but a few.
The show is split into various segments, with the first, surprisingly enough, being called ‘Intro’ which kicked off with the excellent ‘Showtune’ from ‘Parade’ – with Musical Director Edward Court initially taking the lead. This really set the tone for the evening beautifully, as the main cast (Anna-Jane Casey, Ria Jones & Sarah-Louise Young) took over the song and filled the theatre with sound. The ‘Intro’ ended with a superb, lively performance of ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’ in which everyone, including the amazingly talented saxophone/clarinet/flute playing Sophie Byrne, was involved, and which left me exhausted just watching. After this it was a run through ‘Vaudeville’ and ‘Broadway’ with the first act ending in a superb mash-up of three great shows.
After the interval we were back to another run through Jerry’s musical fun bag with songs from ‘Movies’, then ‘Autumn’ – which included the prettiest Christmas tree ever – and finally musical heaven with extracts from my favourite show ‘La Cage Aux Folles’. Four tremendous songs, with solo performances by the ladies. Sarah-Louise and ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, Anna-Jane with ‘Song in the Sand’ and Ria singing the iconic ‘I Am What I Am’ then the three joined together for ‘The Best of Times’ bringing this magical evening to an end with even hardened reviewing hacks on their feet cheering for more.
Everything in this show worked perfectly. Director Kate Golledge really knows how to use the intimate space in the St James Studio to great effect, having her performers out in amongst the audience as if the seats were part of the set – which in some ways they were with pictures of previous ‘Jerry’s Girls’ on the candlelit tables and walls behind the stage. It would be so easy to go overboard with movement in this show, but Choreographer Matthew Cole keeps the dancing simple but highly effective and relevant to the number being performed. And the performances themselves are so fantastic. It was obvious that every single person on the stage was having such a good time and really enjoying themselves. The three ‘Girls’ worked with the audience so well, with some lovely cheeky asides and ad-libbing going on (Sarah-Louise was particularly good at this). Ultimately, they performed beautifully together, not only in the big numbers such as ‘Sunday Clothes’ but also in the more emotional solo numbers, for example ‘I don’t want to Know’ which, yet again reduced this reviewer to a sniveling lump by the end.
With over 30 songs, intermingled with stories of Jerry’s life and audio clips of the man himself – whose only dream was to one day have one show on Broadway – “Jerry’s Girls” is a wonderful tribute to the multi-award winning composer/lyricist whose work will go on forever. In his time, Jerry has worked with some truly wonderful and inspiring ‘Girls’ – Angela Lansbury, Barbara Streisand, Carol Channing, even Ginger Rogers and thanks to this awesome production Jerry has three new ‘Girls’ to add to his famous roster. My Final word, then “Jerry’s Girls” is a must-see for any fan of musical theatre.
Review by Terry Eastham
Jerry’s Girls are Anna-Jane Casey, Ria Jones and Sarah-Louise Young.
Jerry Herman’s many Broadway shows include Hello Dolly!, Mame, Dear World, Mack & Mabel, The Grand Tour and La Cage Aux Folles. His string of awards and honours includes multiple Tony, Grammy, Olivier and Drama Desk Awards, the Johnny Mercer Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame. Jerry also has the distinction of being the only composer-lyricist in history to have three musicals run for more than 1,500 performances on Broadway.
Created by Jerry Herman and collaborator Larry Alford in 1981, Jerry’s Girls originated as a modest cabaret presentation at Onstage, a nightclub located in New York’s theatre district in midtown-Manhattan. After La Cage Aux Folles opened to rave reviews two years later, a full-scale, all-star production was mounted which opened at Broadway’s St. James Theatre in 1985 with a cast including Chita Rivera, who received a Tony-Award nomination for her performance.
Jerry’s Girls is directed by Kate Golledge and choreographed by Matthew Cole. The musical director is Edward Court. It is presented by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Guy James, the team behind the 2014 London premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little at the St. James Studio, which played a sold out run in August before returning in October due to popular demand.
TUESDAY 3 – SUNDAY 15 MARCH 2015
ST. JAMES STUDIO
St. James Theatre, 12 Palace Street, SW1E 5JA
Performances: Tuesday – Saturday 8.00pm, Sundays 7.00pm, Saturdays and Sundays 2.45pm
Thursday 5th March 2015