BWW Review: JERRY'S GIRLS at The Walnut Street Theater
The Independence Studio 3 at The Walnut is the ultimate black box, seating perhaps only over 100. It gives the audience a thrilling intimacy with performers. The Walnut, whatever the size of the audience, never relinquishes their high production standards.
Scenic Designer Roman Tatarowicz fills the small stage with 3 dressing rooms for our divas. If a production number is up, all 3 curtains are open. In a solo, the 2 others withdraw. The pace of the show and the way it is put together allow for even and dynamic flow.
JERRY'S GIRLS is a jukebox show of composer/lyricist Jerry Herman's greatest musicals, the most pre-eminent being HELLO, DOLLY!, MAME and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. (If you are not entirely consumed with our Orange Emperor with no clothes you may have heard that Bette Midler opened last week on Brdway in the former. Is that type-cast or NOT?)
Herman has garnered every musical award known to man. There are sufficient show-stoppers in those three alone to fill a show but we also are serenaded with tunes from MACK AND MABLE, PARADE, MILK AND HONEY and DEAR WORLD.
Another detail addressed is the outstanding costuming by Mary Folino. Aisle Say wonders if that budget even met the gross ticket sales! All three ladies were adorned in the iconic "Dolly" red; in the 'production' number of "Before the Parade Passes By" the women wore similar dresses but in different colors. Yet their shoes were exactly the same style but in the color of the dress. Outstanding. The final number, "The Best of Times", well, those exquisite beaded gowns could have been worn at the Queen's Ball!
Music Director and Pianist Dan Kazemi (the entire orchestra he is) is a wonderfully facile pianist and a great mugger when his cue comes.
Aisle Say has put together a number of juke box shows. I tend to commence with a production number for rousing audience engagement. One assumes Herman himself created the format and chose two tunes that were not particularly well known: "It Takes a Woman" and "Just Leave Everything to Me". (You get the idea this is a woman-themed production?). I would have gone with one of my all-time fave production numbers, "Put On Your Sunday Clothes".
Two of the women are veterans. All are superb songstresses. Barbara McCulloch was last seen at Walnut on the main stage in WIZARD OF OZ. It is far easier to enrapture an audience with a known tune. She gave a wonderful interpretation of "I Won't Send Roses" from MACK AND MABLE.
Rebecca Robbins, she of the soaring soprano, recently toured in PHANTOM. Herman's lyrics are so plaintive and touching in "If He Walked Into My Life" from MAME. Robbins embraced the words as if they were her own to torch a ballad to which we all relate.
A LA CAGE tribute was the conclusion. A relative newcomer, Adrienne Wells started it off in a Cabaret-style outfit. A very good dancer, her electric smile beamed from ear to ear. This was followed with the trio singing the most popular tunes: "Song on the Sand", "I Am What I Am" (a glorious rendition from Robbins with the clarion call 'Life's not worth a damn less you can say I am what I am"). The finale has become a Broadway anthem, "The Best of Times". Love that song!
Through July 2 WalnutStreetTheatre.org 215.574.3550
Next up on Mainstage SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER opening May 16
The 2017-2018 season: FORUM, ANNIE, THE HUMANS, NOISES OFF, MAMA MIA