Jerry Herman

Jerry Herman – 

AKA Gerald Herman

Born: 10-Jul1931
Birthplace: New York City

Occupation: Composer, Songwriter

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Hello Dolly!

Military service: US Army

[1] Stephen Citron, Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune (2004), pages 31-32: “[Leaving his girlfriend Sally] was the wisest thing I ever did because, had I married her, I would have been in a situation that would have been wrong for me, and I would have ruined her life and mine. This way I was free to go on and live the life I’ve lived, which has been very exciting and very fulfilling. I have enjoyed being gay. I have enjoyed it so tremendously. I have the same group of friends that I have had for years. I’ve had a few major romances, and since Sally, I have never lied about my proclivities.”

Father: Harry Herman
Mother: Ruth Sachs
Girlfriend: Sally Singer (broken engagement)

High School: Henry Snyder High School, Jersey City, NJ
Parsons School of Design
University: BA Drama, University of Miami Florida (1953)

Tony 1964 for Hello, Dolly! (composer and lyricist)
Tony 1984 for La Cage aux Folles (original score)
Tony 2009 (lifetime achievement)
Songwriters Hall of Fame 1982
Hollywood Walk of Fame 7095 Hollywood Blvd. (live theatre)

Official Website:

Author of books:
Showtune: A Memoir (1996, memoir, with Marilyn Stasio)


Jerry Herman (born July 10, 1931) 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 La Cage aux Folles and Hello, Dolly!. In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Carol Channing performing, “Before The Parade Passes By” from Hello Dolly.

Raised in Jersey City by musically inclined 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, New Jersey and continued to work in the summers in various camps until they became head counselors and finally ran Stissing Lake Camp 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.[1] 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. He was also a member of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.

Tribute to Jerry Herman

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. 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.[2]

Herman next collected enough original material to put together a 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.[3][4]

During 1960, Herman also met playwright Tad Mosel and the two men 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 on December 29, 1961, but closed after only 13 performances. No cast album was recorded, and the show has never been performed since.

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 (starring Molly Picon), in 1961. It received respectable reviews and ran for 543 performances.

In 1964, producer David Merrick united Herman with Carol Channing for a project that was to become one of his most 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.

Bernadette Peters singing, “Time Heals Everything” from the musical, “Mack and Mable”

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 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 La Cage aux Folles starring George Hearn and 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.”

Many of Jerry Herman’s show tunes have become pop standards. His most famous composition, “Hello, Dolly!“, is one of the most popular tunes ever 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”, and “Bosom Buddies” from Mame; and “I Won’t Send Roses” and “Time Heals Everything” from Mack & Mabel.

Herman is the only composer/lyricist in history to have three musicals run more than 1500 consecutive performances on Broadway: Hello, Dolly! (2,844), Mame (1,508), and La Cage aux Folles (1,761). His work 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.[5]

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 and produced by Jennifer Strome.

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 film WALL-E, Herman’s music from Hello, Dolly! influences WALL-E and gives him emotions.

I’ve known Jerry Herman since 1981. I’ve never met a more genuine, down to earth guy. By 1981, Jerry had already enjoyed such successes as, “Hello Dolly,” “Mame,” “Mack and Mable,” “Milk and Honey,” and on and on. Despite his celebrity, he always found the time to chat and was so supportive of my early career. I was performing on 46th street off 8th Avenue in New York City -those of us from New York City call it, “Restaurant Row.” Jerry was really busy with rehearsals for “La Cage Aux Folles” but he still took time out of his schedule to come and see me in the show. Once I introduced him to my parents. I knew my mother loved one of his early musicals, “Milk and Honey.” Jerry went up to my mother and said, “what do you think of this kid?” My mother replied, “who knew? He said he could play the piano.” They laughed and when Jerry walked away my mother turned to me and said, “Who’s that?” I said, “Him? He’s the guy that wrote, “Milk and Honey,” “Hello Dolly,” “Mame,” – My mother almost fell over! I had the chance to thank Jerry recently for being so supportive back then. I asked him how he was doing and in typical “Jerry Herman style” he replied, “I am enjoying my beautiful life.” I know he means it too. He is one of those delightful people you only get to meet a handful of times in life if you are lucky. I’m lucky.


1 Comment

  1. Paul, you really are lucky!!! Talented, and lucky.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s