Saturday, April 15, 2006

Herman, My Hero, Herman, My Hero

This Daily Telegraph article interviews composer/lyricist Jerry Herman about Mack and Mabel, one of the most-revived flop musicals ever. The show failed in 1974, yet there was so much affection for the score -- Herman's own favourite -- that there has been effort after effort to fix the book, the stagecraft, the unpleasant characters and ending, anything to get the thing back on stage.

I've never been fully convinced that Mack and Mabel deserves all that attention; a lot of the score is great, but there are some pretty dismal songs too (like "When Mabel Comes in the Room," an endless "Hello, Dolly!"-style anthem where absolutely nothing happens for five minutes), and as for fixing the problems with the show as a whole, I tend to agree with Ken Mandelbaum that "If it didn't work in 1974 with Robert Preston, Bernadette Peters and [director] Gower Champion, it never will work." In any case, I tend to think, myself, that Herman has always been at his best not in the brash glitzy songs that he's associated with, but more delicate, operetta-style songwriting that he did in parts Milk and Honey (1961) and Dear World (1969). But the article is a good one, and a good introduction to a songwriter who deserves to be remembered for more than the occasional anthem for cartoonish ladies on staircases.

(Hat tip: 42nd Street Moon.)

No comments: