This tribute to the composer and lyricist Jerry Herman includes highlights from his shows La Cage aux Folles, Dear World, Mack & Mabel, Mame and Hello, Dolly!. His first show, Milk and Honey, opened in 1961 and his subsequent productions have gone on to collect numerous Grammy and Tony awards. To celebrate this history of Broadway, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the directorship of Donald Pippin, Herman's long-time friend and a fellow Tony award winner, squeezed on to the stage of the London Palladium.
Originally billed as three Broadway legends on the same stage for the first time in 30 years, with tickets being sold at a premium (£250 and upwards) in aid of the charity Crusaid, this show descended into farce with the appearance of only one legend: Angela Lansbury. Barbara Cook pulled out of the concert several weeks ago, and Jerry Herman was announced that evening as being too ill to attend his own tribute show.
Lansbury, making her first appearance on a London stage since the 1970s, has appeared in many a Herman production, notably Dear World and Mame, but, of course, she has spent the most recent part of her career sleuthing as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. This has clearly taken its toll on her singing voice, since she spent this evening in the role of master of ceremonies, and was reduced to introducing a succession of "stars of stage and screen". These were Klea Blackhurst, Melissa Errico, Ron Raines and Sal Viviano. Yes, I too was asking, Who?
The performances themselves were highly competent and well received by an enthusiastic audience, despite not being helped by amateurish lighting and the over- amplification of the orchestra.
The first half began slowly with a lengthy overture, before stand-out performances of "Song on the Sand", "Wherever He Ain't" and the title song from Mame. The show stepped up a gear after the interval with the inevitable "Hello, Dolly!", the gay anthem "I Am What I Am" and the brilliant songs "Miss Spectacular" and "Where in the World Is My Prince?" from a yet-to-be-staged production . The audience roared their approval (Herman will have another hit show).
For the finale, the cast serenaded Lansbury with "Hello, Angie!" and "The Best of Times". For me, despite the efforts of the singers and the RPO players, the producers of this evening made it feel more like the worst of times, and I ended up hoping that Lansbury would once more become Jessica Fletcher, so that she could investigate this crime of a show.
Gary Mills, betting shop deputy manager, Witham, Essex
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