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 Jerry's Girls 

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors 

 

 JERRYS GIRLS

Stephanie Umoh, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Christine Pedi in Jerry's Girls. Photographer: Russ Rowland

 Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors   

 "Strike the band up/ It's today!" -- and through August 13, it's Jerry's Girls at the York Theatre with the outstanding piano accompaniment of Eric Svejcar, a one-man band himself, and Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Christine Pedi, and Stephanie Umoh singing the songs of Jerry Herman.

The second in this summer's Musicals in Mufti series, the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman offers a sure-fire refreshment for an August day, even when performed script-in-hand with costumes limited to different versions of Dolly Levi's hats.  There is no narrative, just each singer stepping forward to deliver the songs that defined Dolly Levi (Hello, Dolly!), dazzling Mame Dennis (Mame), ethereal Countess Aurelia (Dear World), actress Mabel Normand (Mack and Mabel), and ZaZa, the extravagant drag star in La Cage Aux Folles.

With little rehearsal time and few production values aside from Justin West's video projections, the songs are the show.  Directed by Pamela Hunt, too often the singers in this performance, all theater pros, were overly dependent on the scripts.  The versatile Pedi (Forbidden Broadway), sounded indecisive with, "Just Leave Everything to Me", but she nailed the emotional, "If He Walked Into My Life."  At her best, however, she leaned on her comedic talent, as in "Take It All Off" and "The Man in the Moon," both in the Vaudeville Medley. 

One must appreciate the total immersion in her songs by D'Abruzzo (Avenue Q), although some renditions, like "I Don't Want to Know," inched toward exaggeration.  Notable was a heart-wrenching delivery of, "Time Heals Everything" and she joined the third singer, Stephanie Umoh (Ragtime) in the witty nastiness of "Bosom Buddies." 

It was Umoh, with a secure, warm soprano, who was the standout performer of the production with nuanced interpretations in, "It Only Takes a Moment" and a stunning, balanced "I Won't Send Roses."  Her rendition of "I Am What I Am" was outstanding with Umoh's determined passion.   She is a performer to watch.

Musical Director/pianist, Eric Svejcar, ginned up the energy with vibrant pianissimo and, behind the ballads, delivered sensitive accompaniment without undue theatricality.

Jerry's Girls has been performed since 1985, on Broadway and in cabaret.  The venerable York Theatre brings in a truckload of terrific songs with experienced performers who could enlighten any bare space even without the bells and whistles of costumes and sets.  What would help, however, was a bit more time to clinch the lyrics and rehearse together for this celebration of Jerry Herman's musical theatre virtuosity, his genius in music and lyrics, and those dazzling dames.

Jerry's Girls
York Theatre Company at St. Peter's
619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, NYC.
Preview: Aug. 5, 2017. Opening: Aug. 6, 2017. Closing Aug. 13, 2017 (one added performance)
http://www.yorktheatre.org/jerrys-girls.html
Cast: Stephanie Umoh, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Christine Pedi
Running time: Two hours. One ontermission.
Music and Lyrics: Jerry Herman
Concept: Larry Alford, Wayne Cilento, Jerry Herman
Director: Pamela Hunt
Music Direction: Eric Svejcar

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors

August 2017 

Also appearing in TotalTheater.com