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Jerry Herman

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Title: Jerry Herman  
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Subject: Tony Award for Best Original Score, List of musicals: A to L, Hello, Dolly! (musical), La Cage aux Folles (musical), Mame (musical)
Collection: 1931 Births, American Memoirists, American Musical Theatre Composers, American Musical Theatre Lyricists, American People of Russian-Jewish Descent, American Songwriters, American Theater Hall of Fame Inductees, Gay Musicians, Grammy Award Winners, Jewish American Musicians, Kennedy Center Honorees, Lgbt Jews, Lgbt Musicians from the United States, Lgbt Songwriters, Living People, Mame, Parsons the New School for Design Alumni, People from Jersey City, New Jersey, People from New York City, People with Hiv/Aids, Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductees, University of Miami Alumni
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Jerry Herman

Jerry Herman
Herman at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors
Born Gerald Sheldon Herman
(1931-07-10) July 10, 1931 or (1933-07-10) July 10, 1933
New York City, NY, United States
Monuments Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, U. Miami
Ethnicity Russian Jewish
Home town Jersey City, New Jersey
Partner(s) Martin Finkelstein (d. 1989)[1][2]
  • Harry Herman
  • Ruth Sachs Herman
Website Official website
Musical career
Genres Musical theatre
Occupation(s) Composer, Lyricist
Instruments Piano
Years active 1954–present

Jerry Herman (born July 10, 1931 or 1933) is an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway musical theater. He composed the scores for the hit Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. He has been nominated for the Tony Award five times, and won twice, for Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles. In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He is a recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.[8]


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Broadway career 3
  • Impact and recognition 4
  • Personal life 5
  • Work 6
    • Stage 6.1
    • Films 6.2
    • Television 6.3
  • Awards, nominations and honors 7
    • Emmy Awards 7.1
    • Grammy Awards 7.2
    • Tony Awards 7.3
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Raised in Jersey City, New Jersey by musically inclined middle-class Jewish[9] parents, Herman learned to play piano at an early age, and the three frequently attended Broadway musicals. His father, Harry, was a gym teacher and in the summer worked in the Catskill Mountains hotels. His mother, Ruth, also worked in the hotels as a singer, pianist, and children's teacher, and eventually became an English teacher. After marrying, they lived in Jersey City and continued to work in the summers in various camps until they became head counselors and finally ran Stissing Lake Camp in the small town of Pine Plains, New York, in the Berkshire Mountains. Herman spent all of his summers there, from age 6 to 23. It was at camp that he first became involved in theatrical productions, as director of Oklahoma!, Finian's Rainbow and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.[3] Herman graduated from Jersey City's Henry Snyder High School.[10]

At the age of 17, Herman was introduced to Frank Loesser who, after hearing material he had written, urged him to continue composing. He left the Parsons School of Design to attend the University of Miami, which has one of the nation's most avant garde theater departments. While an undergraduate student at the University of Miami Herman produced, wrote and directed a college musical called Sketchbook. It was scheduled to run for three performances, but the show created an instant massive patron demand. Herman's Sketchbook attracted packed houses for an additional 17 performances before it ended. It was the longest running show in the history of University on Miami theater. He was also a member of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.

Early career

After graduation from the University of Miami, Herman moved to New York City, where he produced the Off-Broadway revue I Feel Wonderful, which was made up of material he had written at the University. It opened at the Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village on October 18, 1954, and ran for 48 performances.[11] It was his only show his mother was able to see; shortly after it opened, she died of cancer at the age of forty-four, and Herman spent the next year in deep mourning.

In 1957, while playing piano at a New York City jazz club called the Showplace, he was asked to write a show to replace one that had transferred (that show was Little Mary Sunshine). As well as supplying the music, Herman wrote the book and directed the one-hour revue, called Nightcap. He asked his friend, Phyllis Newman, to do movement and dance and it featured Charles Nelson Reilly (who later co-starred in Hello, Dolly!). The show opened in May 1958 and ran for two years.[12]

Herman next collected enough original material to put together an off-Broadway revue called Parade in 1960. Herman directed with choreography by Richard Tone. The cast included Charles Nelson Reilly and Dody Goodman. It first opened at the Showplace and, expanded, moved to the Players Theatre in January 1960.[13][14]

Broadway career

In 1960, Herman made his Broadway debut with the revue From A to Z, which featured contributions from newcomers Woody Allen and Fred Ebb as well. That same year producer Gerard Oestreicher approached him after seeing a performance of "Parade", and asked if he would be interested in composing the score for a show about the founding of the state of Israel. The result was his first full-fledged Broadway musical, Milk and Honey in 1961. The show, about American tourists in Israel, starred Robert Weede, Mimi Benzell and Molly Picon. It received respectable reviews and ran for 543 performances.

Herman met playwright Tad Mosel in 1960 and they collaborated on an Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Mosel's 1953 television play, Madame Aphrodite. The musical of the same name, which starred Nancy Andrews in the title role, opened at the Orpheum Theatre in December 1961 but closed after 13 performances.[15] A cast album was recorded, but the show has never been performed since. The failure of the musical hurt Herman, who felt that the direction and casting had not worked, but described his decision to make it as a "very brave thing for me to do...It was a dark piece, something more suited to early Sondheim than me".[15]

In 1964, producer David Merrick united Herman with musical actress Carol Channing and librettist Michael Stewart for a project that was to become one of his more successful, Hello, Dolly!. The original production ran for 2,844 performances, the longest running musical for its time, and was later revived three times. Although facing stiff competition from Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that season, winning 10, a record that remained unbroken for 37 years, until The Producers won 12 Tonys in 2001.

In 1966, Herman's next musical was the smash hit Mame starring Angela Lansbury, which introduced a string of Herman standards, most notably the ballad "If He Walked Into My Life", the holiday favorite "We Need a Little Christmas", and the title tune.

Although not commercial successes, Dear World (1969) starring Angela Lansbury, Mack & Mabel (1974) starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters, and The Grand Tour (1979) starring Joel Grey are noted for their interesting concepts and their melodic, memorable scores. Herman considers Mack & Mabel, also written in collaboration with Michael Stewart, his personal favorite score, with later composition La Cage aux Folles in a close second. Both Dear World and Mack & Mabel have developed a cult following among Broadway aficionados.

In 1983, Herman had his third mega-hit with Gene Barry, which broke box-office records at the Palace Theatre and earned Herman yet another Tony Award for Best Musical. From its score came the gay anthem "I Am What I Am" and the rousing sing-a-long "The Best of Times." La Cage aux Folles won the Tony Award for Best Musical (1983), is the only musical to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice (2005 & 2010), and therefore is the only show to win a Best Musical award for every staged Broadway production.

Impact and recognition

Many of Herman's show tunes have become pop standards. His most famous composition, "Hello, Dolly!", is one of the most popular tunes to have originated in a Broadway musical, and was a #1 hit in the United States for Louis Armstrong, knocking The Beatles from #1 in 1964. A French recording by Petula Clark charted in the Top Ten in both Canada and France. "If He Walked into My Life" from Mame was recorded by Eydie Gormé, winning her a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Female in 1967. "I Am What I Am" from La Cage aux Folles was recorded by Gloria Gaynor and became a disco favorite. Other well known Herman showtunes include "Shalom" from Milk and Honey; "Before the Parade Passes By", "Put On Your Sunday Clothes", and "It Only Takes a Moment" from Hello, Dolly!; "It's Today!", "Open a New Window", "We Need a Little Christmas," and "Bosom Buddies" from Mame; and "Tap Your Troubles Away", "I Won't Send Roses" and "Time Heals Everything" from Mack & Mabel.

Herman was the first (of only two) composers/lyricists to have three musicals run more than 1500 consecutive performances on Broadway (the other being Stephen Schwartz): Hello, Dolly! (2,844), Mame (1,508), and La Cage aux Folles (1,761). He is honored by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 7090 Hollywood Boulevard. Other honors include the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, named after him by his alma mater. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982.[16]

Herman's work has been the subject of two popular musical revues, Jerry's Girls (1984) conceived by Larry Alford, and Showtune (2003) conceived by Paul Gilger.

A 90-minute documentary about his life and career, "Words and Music by Jerry Herman," by filmmaker Amber Edwards, was broadcast on PBS in 2008. In 1989, American-playwright Natalie Gaupp wrote a short play titled "The Jerry Herman Center." The play is a comedy which portrays the lives of several patients in "The Jerry Herman Center for Musical Theatre Addiction." In the 2008 animated film WALL-E, Herman's music from Hello, Dolly! influences WALL-E and gives him emotions.

In 2011 Magnormos produced a triptych of his works in Melbourne, Victoria: "Milk and Honey", "Dear World" and "Hello, Dolly!".[17]

Personal life

Herman had a flair for decorating. In the 1970s, he took a break from composition after the failure of Mack and Mabel. Architectural Digest wrote about the firehouse he renovated. Then he redecorated other houses and sold them. He has decorated at least thirty-eight different residences in his life. Mr. Herman reportedly listed his 4,088 square feet (379.8 m2) West Hollywood condominium apartment for sale early in 2013.[1][18][19]

Herman was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1985. As noted in the "Words and Music" PBS documentary, "He is one of the fortunate ones who survived to see experimental drug therapies take hold and is still, as one of his lyrics proclaims, 'alive and well and thriving' over quarter of a century later."[20]

Herman's memoir, Showtune, was published in 1996.[21]

Herman resides in Miami Beach, Florida.



Off Broadway revues
Broadway musicals
Other shows



Awards, nominations and honors

  • 2010 Kennedy Center Honoree
  • 1999 Theatre World Special Award (An Evening with Jerry Herman) (winner)
  • 1980 Doctor of Fine Arts, May 4, 1980, University of Miami[22]

Emmy Awards

  • 1997 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics ("Mrs. Santa Claus") (nominee)

Grammy Awards

  • 1964 Grammy Award for Song of the Year (Hello, Dolly!) (winner)
  • 1966 Grammy Award for Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album (Mame) (winner)

Tony Awards

  • 2009 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (winner)
  • 1984 Tony Award for Best Original Score (La Cage aux Folles) (winner)
  • 1979 Tony Award for Best Original Score (The Grand Tour) (nominee)
  • 1966 Tony Award for Best Composer and Lyricist (Mame) (nominee)
  • 1964 Tony Award for Best Composer and Lyricist (Hello, Dolly!) (winner)
  • 1962 Tony Award for Best Composer (Milk and Honey) (nominee)


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Kennedy Center 2010 Honorees Announced"
  9. ^
  10. ^ Ewen, David. Popular American Composers from Revolutionary Times to the Present: A Biographical and Critical Guide, Volume 1, p. 51. Accessed June 6, 2012. "Following his graduation from Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, he enrolled at the Parsons School of Design in New York intending to become an interior decorator."
  11. ^ Citron, Stephen, p. 33
  12. ^ Citron, Stephen. pp.39-40
  13. ^, Parade information
  14. ^ Suskin, Steven."Oh! Captain and Jerry Herman's Parade",, November 3, 2002
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1982
  17. ^
  18. ^ Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  19. ^ (blog)
  20. ^ "Words and Music by Jerry Herman", retrieved December 6, 2010
  21. ^
  22. ^
  • Showtune: A Memoir by Jerry Herman (1996) (with Marilyn Stasio), Donald I. Fine Books, an imprint of Penguin Books
  • Citron, Stephen. Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune (2004), Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-10082-5

External links

  • Jerry Herman Official Web Site.
  • University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Official Web Site
  • Jerry Herman at the Internet Movie Database
  • Jerry Herman at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Jerry Herman at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  • Jerry Herman - Downstage Center audio interview at American Theatre Wing.
  • Interview with Jerry Herman
  • Jerry Herman podcast series by Sony BMG Masterworks
  • Music available for rental at Robert Wendel Music
  • Herman, Jerry, with Marilyn Stacio, Showtune: A Memoir, Donald I. Fine Books, 1996.
  • People Weekly, April 21, 1986.
  • Time, December 30, 1985.
  • Variety, September 20, 1999.
  • "Jerry Herman, 2009 Special Tony Recipient, Takes a Moment to Reflect on a Lifetime,", (August 30, 2011).
  • "Broadway Bigs, Choreographer Bill T. Jones and Composer Jerry Herman Awarded Kennedy Center Honors," New York Daily News, (August 30, 2011).
  • Ken Bloom collection of Jerry Herman memorabilia, 1955-2000, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
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