by Beki Pineda
JERRY’S GIRLS – Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman; Directed by Kelly Van Oosbree. Produced by Vintage Theatre Productions (presented at The Barth Hotel, 1514 17th Street, Denver) through August 3. Tickets available at 303-595-4464 x 10 or SeniorHousingOptions.org.
In 1991, John Ashton, Denver producer/director/actor, was looking for a place to stage HOT L BALTIMORE when he drove by the Barth Hotel on the corner of 17th and Market in downtown Denver and noticed that their marquee over the front door had exactly 15 glass inserts in the front. Just the number needed to convert it to announce the name of the play. He negotiated a deal to make the play a fundraiser for Senior Housing Options, the organization that owned the property and provided housing for 62 disabled and indigent residents. That first year they raised $17,000 for a new air conditioning system. It took another 17 years before the space was used again as a theatre with the remounting of HOT L BALTIMORE in 2008. Since then the lobby of the hotel has hosted a theatre production every summer as a fundraiser.
This year Vintage Theatre has enlisted the talents of three magnificent singers and an extremely talented piano player to perform the musical revue of Jerry Herman’s songs called JERRY’S GIRLS for this unique production. Utilizing the tiny space very well and using their unamplified voices, Anna High, Isabelle Duran and Abby McInerney regaled their audience with selections from Herman’s brilliant career. Herman started writing music professionally in college and had his first off-Broadway revue of miscellaneous songs he had written in school in 1954. Another revue entitled PARADE debuted in 1960 featured a song called “Two a Day” which is included in this script. He finally made it to Broadway in 1960 with another musical revue, but it wasn’t until 1961 when his first full blown musical MILK AND HONEY debuted that he felt successful. This was followed in short order by HELLO DOLLY!, MAME, and MACK AND MABEL. JERRY’S GIRLS as a revue of Herman’s music was first put together in 1981 by Larry Alford, who expanded it in 1984 to include songs from Herman’s new show, the wildly successful LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Originally written for four female singers and a chorus, it toured the country (including Denver) with Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams, and Andrea McArdle in the leads before its long successful run on Broadway In 1985.
The version at the Barth features the now usual three singers and has utilized the option of re-organizing and reducing the number of songs from the original playlist to make the show as long or as short as you like. The current evening took out eight songs and keeps the evening to a tidy 100 minutes. Just enough time to highlight the delightful voices and song stylings of these three extremely talented ladies. HELLO DOLLY! Is featured heavily with seven of the most popular songs from that score including “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and the title song. Another seven songs come from the MAME playbook which also includes the title song, the novelty song between Mame and Vera, “Bosom Buddies,” and the heartbreaking “If He Walked Into My Life” sung by Anna. MACK AND MABEL is a musical not often done about the lives and loves of Mabel Normand, a silent movie star, and her mentor and lover, Mack Sennett. But it has a clever and witty score about the making of movies and the doomed love affair between the two. This evening includes five songs from this score which featured “Wherever He Ain’t” with Abby as Mabel singing about what a rat Mack is. Anna responds with Mack’s song warning Mabel that “I Won’t Send Roses.”
DEAR WORLD (Herman’s musical version of THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT), the early MILK AND HONEY and the musical revue PARADE are each represented with a song. A DAY IN HOLLYWOOD/A NIGHT IN THE UKRAINE gets two songs including the spoof of Nelson Eddy sung by Isabelle as Jeannette McDonald and the plea to “Just Go To The Movies” when you’re in a bad mood. The show finishes off with the anthem songs from LA CAGE – “I Am What I Am” sung by Anna and “The Best of Times is Now” harmonized by all three singers. The musical accompaniment for the evening is played on a small spinet piano by Eric Weinstein.
Every one of Herman’s musicals lists “Music and Lyrics by . . .” making this a true tribute to the living legend he has become in the theatrical world. He received the Kennedy Center Honor the same year as Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey. He has won three Tony’s including one for Lifetime Achievement and two Grammy’s. This homage to his work is indeed merited and joyfully presented by this talented cast.
The Barth is surrounded by good restaurants and is in itself a charming and historical edifice. Make an evening of it and see JERRY’S GIRLS perform. But hurry – only one weekend left!
A WOW factor of 8.5!