Friday, January 3, 2020

The Friday 5: 5 Favorite Jerry Herman Tunes

Like many of you, I'm sure, news of Jerry Herman's passing caused me to reflect on his shows. I realized that Mame is my favorite score of his, but each one is a bounty of tuneful toe-tappers and lovely ballads. Looking over my choices I see many commonalities, but for me, nothing is more poignant than the optimism and joy each contains.  Narrowing all of his works down to a Friday 5 list proved difficult, but it was nice to reflect and revisit each and every one.

The Friday 5:
5 Favorite Songs by
Jerry Herman

5. "Look What Happened to Mabel" from Mack and Mabel

"Talk about the magic that the camera makes
But this is ridiculous!
Hold your tongue and hold your snickers
For the new enchantress of the flickers
Is that plain little Nellie
The kid from the deli
So rattle me beads
Look what happened to Mabel!"

Sung by Mabel Normand, it is our first look at the titular subject of the show who dreams of leaving her waitressing job at a Flatbush deli for life as a screen screen queen. It is catchy and fun to sing along with.

4. "Open a New Window" from Mame

"Open a new window,
Open a new door,
Travel a new highway,
That's never been tried before;
Before you find you're a dull fellow,
Punching the same clock,
Walking the same tight rope
As everyone on the block.
The fellow you ought to be is three dimensional,
Soaking up life down to your toes,
Whenever they say you're slightly unconventional,
Just put your thumb up to your nose."

"Life is a banquet," says Auntie Mame to her new charge, Patrick. The song, part patter song, part production, and anthem, does what Herman did best, reveal theme, character and plot all at once in a toe-tapping number. 

3. "A Little More Mascara" from La Cage aux Folles

"When life is a real bitch again, and my old sense of humor has up, and gone
It's time for the big switch again, I put a little more Mascara on.
When I count my crow's feet again, and tired of this perpetual marathon,
I put down the john-seat again, and put a little more Mascara on.
And ev'rything's sparkle dust, bugle beads, ostrich plums,
When it's a beaded lash that you look through,
'Cause when I feel glamorous, elegant, beautiful,
The world that I'm looking at's beautiful too!
When my little road has a few bumps again,
And I need something level to lean upon,
I put on my sling pumps again,
And wham! This ugly duckling is a swan!
So when my spirit starts to sag,
I hustle out my highest drag,
And put a little more mascara on."

This soliloquy sung by Alban lays bare his motivations and insecurities, and allows us to witness his transformation into the glamorous Zsa Zsa, safe behind her armor perfectly applied make up and sequined gown. How many times I've sung along to this, imagining my own transformation.

2. "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly!

"Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out
Strut down the street and have your picture took
Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about
That Sunday shine is a certain sign
That you feel as fine as you look!
Beneath your parasol, the world is all a smile
That makes you feel brand new down to your toes
Get out your feathers
Your patent leathers
Your beads and buckles and bows
For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday clothes!"

One of my all-time favorite production numbers I love the clever word play and how the song - lyrics and music both - builds and builds to such a satisfying crescendo.

1. "My Best Girl" from Mame

"You're my best girl and nothing you do is wrong,
I'm proud you belong to me;
And if a day is rough for me,
Having you there's enough for me.
And if someday another girl comes along,
It won't take her long to see,
That I'll still be found, just hanging around
My best girl."

This song is very personal to me, and to be honest, I have to fight back tears just writing about it. It perfectly reflects my feelings about my late grandmother, who instilled in me my love of culture. In my mind, I am singing the Young Patrick verse (above) and my Nonna is singing the Mame verse which follows. Beyond that, the song is another reminder of Herman's ability to bring out the emotion easily between characters.

Like I said, it was difficult to pick just five. Even now, I can think of at least five others that could replace these!


1 comment:

  1. Although it was cut from "Mame", it showed up in the movie of "Hello Dolly" - "Love is Only Love"


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