Review: JERRY'S GIRLS, Menier Chocolate Factory

The show celebrates the life and legacy of legendary award-winning Broadway composer Jerry Herman.

By: May. 23, 2024
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Review: JERRY'S GIRLS, Menier Chocolate Factory
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Jerry's GirlsJerry Herman's songbook takes centre stage in Jerry's Girls, a three-woman revue first created in 1981. It's a showcase for three generations of performers to strut their stuff. 

Here, the tunes are utilised to comment on female performer experience in the 1950s, and the chorus is omitted. Director Hannah Chissick has assembled an all-female band (under Sarah Travis's musical direction and orchestration) so this is definitely ladies' night.

Jessica Martin represents the older voice of wisdom, rejuvenation, and experience. Her vocals smash the final verse of the raucous "Take It All Off" as well as "I Don't Want To Know" from Dear World with style. A versatile performer, and a future Dolly?

Her duet of "Bosom Buddies" with Cassidy Janson captures fire and flair from both, while Janson (nursing a foot injury) soothes us in quieter moments with "I Won't Send Roses" and "Kiss Her Now", and sparkles in a jazzy "If He Walked Into My Life" and a resigned "Time Heals Everything".

For Julie Yammanee, the ingenue and the innocent pepper her songs, notably "Look What Happened To Mabel" and "Gooch's Song". She also adds a soprano lilt to the trio numbers "Song of the Sand", "Movies Were Movies" and "Tap Your Troubles Away", and adds a comic flair that clicks with Janson in particular.

Paul Farnsworth's set allows numbers to be staged both backstage and before the curtain, with occasional use of the 'wings'. The traditional make-up mirror set-up which frames the show is a particularly nice touch.

The decision to stage part of one song for the trio at the side of the audience, though, missed the mark, as two thirds of the paying public just can't see them properly. It's a gimmick that isn't needed.

Jerry's Girls
Julie Yammanee, Cassidy Janson, Jessica Martin in Jerry's Girls.
Photo credit Tristram Kenton

With choreography by Matt Cole and lighting by Philip Gladwell, the effect is one of a slightly stale theatre space that takes flight in performance. You might not be able to make out the name of the old girl on the wall, but these ladies can still put on a show.

And whatever stories the show gets the trio to tell, it is the songs that count, and their rich history, as evidenced by a roll call of musical theatre ladies who have been "Jerry's Girls" in the past.

What I particularly noticed was the sharp lyrics and rhymes from a master craftsman, whether fast-paced in "We Need A Little Christmas" or reflective like "It Only Takes A Moment". These are songs which give whatever you want to take as performer or audience.

Deeply mining the scores of four musicals Jerry Herman is best known for (Hello, Dolly, Mame, Mack & Mabel, La Cage Aux Folles), with a handful from others like Dear World and Parade, this will appeal to Herman devotees and musical generalists alike.

Carol Channing, Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman would be proud.

Jerry's Girls continues at Menier Chocolate Factory until 29 June 

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton




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