Thursday, May 23, 2019
Jerry Herman Legacy Passed on to Local Students and the Argyros
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If you love Broadway, this show’s for you.
 
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Without Jerry Herman there would have been no “Hello, Dolly!” its recording by Louis Armstrong knocking The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand’’ off the top of the charts.

There would have been no “Mame” to give Angela Lansbury her first starring role.

And there would have been no Tony Award-winning La Cage aux Folles’ with its gay anthem, “I Am What I Am” and the rousing sing-a-long “The Best of Times.”

 
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Jason Graae, Klea Blackhurst, Debbie Gravitte and Scott Coulter perform a Jerry Herman number.
 

Celebrate those on Saturday when The ASCAP Foundation and Spot-On Entertainment presents “Jerry Herman: The Broadway Legacy Concert” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum. Tickets start at $35, available at www.theargyros.org.

The show will feature Broadway singers and a couple local singers who have spent the week learning about Jerry Herman and his music.

And money from ticket sales will go to the Argyros, thanks to a unique gift from the ASCAP Foundation.

Herman, 87, was raised in Jersey City where he learned to play piano at an early age. His parents, both teachers, frequently took him to Broadway musicals and he became involved in theatrical productions at summer camps in the Catskill Mountains as a youth. He was urged at 17 to continue composing by none other than Frank Loesser, who wrote the lyrics and music to “Guys and Dolls” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” among other hits.

 
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Debbie Gravitte, Ron Raines and Klea Blackhurst.
 

Good advice, it turned out, as Herman has the distinction of being the only composer-lyricist in history to have had three musicals that ran more than 1,500 consecutive performances on Broadway.

Among those hits, the 1964 Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Carol Channing, who died this week. It won 10 Tony Awards, despite stiff competition from “Funny Girl.”

 “There is never an evening when, somewhere in the world, the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman are not being sung by a lady in a red headdress, or a lady with a bugle or a middle-aged man in a wig and a boa,” noted one fan.

Vocalists for Saturday’s show include Debbie Gravitte, who won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in Jerome Robbins’ “Broadway.” She’s also appeared in such musicals as “Les Miserables,” “Chicago,” “Zorba” and Ain’t Broadway Grand.”

Klea Blackhurst is known for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman, “Everything the Traffic Will Allow.” She recently starred in “Hello, Dolly!” at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn.

Ron Raines, a three-time Emmy nominee for his role as villain Alan Spaulding on “The Guiding Light,” was nominated for a Tony Award for “Follies.”

Pianist John Boswell, who has served as musical director for Judy Collins, Andy Williams and Bob Newhart, is “the greatest pianist in the country,” said Coulter. “He’s phenomenal.”

And Scott Coulter has received a slew of awards for his work in New York cabaret, in addition to performing in the Emmy-nominated PBS production of “A Christmas Carol: The Symphonic Concert.” He also is the founder of Spot-On Entertainment

Coulter created the concert for Jerry Herman and the ASCAP Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and music education.

The Foundation was incorporated in 1975 when Amy Norworth, the widow of Jack Norworth who penned “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” 110 years ago, left a bequest to the ASCAP to establish a memorial fund to assist deserving young composers through royalties from that song.

The Foundation gifts four concerts each year, and Coulter chose to gift the Argyros with one of those concerts.

“Greg Phillips, who served as interim director of the Argyros, is an old friend of mine,” he said.

In addition to the Broadway singers, a master class for high school choral students is being held at Sun Valley Community School. Students are learning Jerry Herman songs and two of those students will be chosen to perform onstage Saturday night.

“They pick a Jerry Herman song and perform it. It passes the torch to a generation who knows ‘Hamilton’ but not ‘Hello, Dolly!’ ” said Coulter. “I find that most of the youngsters do not know of Jerry Herman’s legacy. But they all find a song that speaks to them and perform solos.”

Christine DuFur, a senior at Sun Valley Community School, is one of about a dozen students who will take part in the master class on Thursday where performers from the show will give students feedback.

She chose to sing "Look What Happened to Mabel" from the musical "Mack and Mabel."

"It's a fun upbeat song and it fits my voice," she said. "It's good practice for people like myself who are hoping to pursue a career in music."

DuFur said she wasn't familiar with Jerry Herman but was familiar with "Hello, Dolly!"

"I went out and did more research on him. I've learned through this how much he's done. He's very talented."

Students tend to pick a wide range of songs, Coulter said. Three students involved in the last legacy concert at the Irvine Barclay Theatre where Argyros Director Douglas Rankin once worked picked songs from “The Grand Tour,’ a relatively unknown musical about a Polish Jew and a anti-Semitic colonel who join hands to escape the Nazis.

“Whatever they pick, the evening will be great,” Coulter said. “It’s a celebration of Jerry Herman’s music  by Broadway stars in trios and duets. You’ll hear everything from ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ to ‘Mame’ and ’Hello, Dolly!’ ”

DID YOU KNOW?

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which is traditionally sung during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games across America, is the third most frequently sung tune in the United States after “Happy Birthday” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

More than 400 musicians, including Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, the Andrew Sisters, Frank Zappa and the Goo Goo Dolls, have recorded it.

 

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