Artist Info

Jerry Herman

Jerry Herman was one of the most successful songwriters for the musical theater in his generation, providing music and lyrics to three long-running Broadway shows -- Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles -- as well as four other Broadway productions between 1961 and 1983. Unlike such contemporaries as Stephen Sondheim and the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, Herman was not much interested in developing the art of the musical theater in new, more serious, or avant-garde directions. On the contrary, he was quoted as saying that he wished he had been born 30 years earlier, so that he could have worked in the era of light musical comedy as purveyed by predecessors like Irving Berlin. He wanted to write optimistic, entertaining shows with catchy tunes and happy endings. Accordingly, while his lyrics could be witty, they were usually light-hearted, and his music simple. His biographer, Stephen Citron (Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune) claimed that simplicity could be deceptive, however, noting Herman's "ability to hone sharp, original-sounding melodies out of harmonic clichés." "… Herman's melodic gift depends not on complex chord relationships," Citron says, "… but rather on taking a harmonic cliché and infusing it with life and color." In an era when some in the musical theater were exploring dark themes and looking for original ways to express them, Herman's approach was sometimes derided as old-fashioned. He persevered, nevertheless. "There's been a rumor," he told the audience at the 1984 Tony Awards in accepting his statue for best score, "that the simple hummable show tune is dead on Broadway. Well, it's alive and well at the Palace [where his show, La Cage aux Folles, was playing]!"

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