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Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Jerry Herman's Broadway
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota

Also see Bill's reviews of Two by Two and TV Too and Intimate Apparel


Jason Graae
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota is having a very special celebration, launching their 20th Anniversary season. For that, they put together a festive program in tribute to one of America's favorite Broadway composers, Jerry Herman. Featured performers were Jason Graae, who has traveled extensively with Mr. Herman and with his own program entitled Perfect Hermany, and Klea Blackhurst, who also has a strong history with the composer, having appeared in important productions of Hello, Dolly! and Mame. Also featured was Gloria Musicae under the direction of Dr. Joseph Holt. Last season Asolo Rep was going to produce a revue devoted to Jerry Herman but when difficulties with the rights cropped up, Frank Loesser was substituted, so Sarasota audiences have been waiting long enough. Judging by a nice sized audience at Sarasota's Opera House, ticket buyers were in agreement.

The afternoon opened with an overture for piano and oboe (Mr. Graae is an accomplished player). Next came the first of four songs from The Grand Tour, "You I Like." For a musical that was decidedly not a hit, there are many fine songs in the score, including "Marianne" and "I'll Be here Tomorrow." The audience was treated to both, as well as "Mrs. S.L. Jacobowsky," by Mr. Graae, since he had taken part in the first major revival at the request of the composer. I must admit I got goose bumps as he started "Marianne" ("Don't ever tell me that you've heard the cello; For you've never met Marianne"). I fell in love with the song years ago through a performance by Barbara Cook and that love continues to this day; it is one of Jerry Herman's most inspired songs. Klea Blackhurst offered "It's Today" from Mame, and "I Don't Want to Know" from Dear World. No matter what I said about "Marianne," and I'm not retracting any of it, "I Don't Want to Know" is my favorite Herman ballad. Ms. Blackhurst closed the act with perhaps the finest first act closer in the history of musical theater, "Before the Parade Passes By."

At the top of the second act, Gloria Musicae offered the title tune from Mame and, even though it might be a bit early in the season, that perennial Christmas favorite, "We Need a Little Christmas." Mr. Graae was back with "It Only Takes a Moment" and "Loving You" (Mame, the movie). Ms. Blackhurst offered "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" followed by "If He Walked Into My Life" and closed her portion with "World Take Me Back" written for Ethel Merman when Hello Dolly was in the planning stages. Mr. Graae returned for one of Jerry Herman's strongest anthems, "I Am What I Am," before everyone, including Artist Concerts staff members John Alan Fischer and Lee Dougherty Ross, joined in to remind us that now is "The Best of Times."

All of this wonderful music made me certain that I would return home and grab one of my cast albums from a Jerry Herman musicals, and so I did—the original Broadway cast recording of La Cage aux Folles which I first saw at its pre-Broadway engagement at The Colonial Theater in Boston, August of 1983.

Next up in the Artist Concerts Pop series is cabaret singer Carol J. Bufford on November 14 and 15, 2015.

Jerry Herman's Broadway was presented October 11, 2105, by Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota at The Sarasota Opera House. Box Office 941 306-1201. For more information, please visit www.artistseries.net.


Photo: Steven Sorokoff

--William S. Oser


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