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A CurtainUp Review
Showtune: The Words & Music of Jerry Herman
By Eunice Marquet

As the audience waited for the house to open for Showtune, the new musical review playing at the Theatre at Saint Peter's, we could hear the singers warming up. Listening to the harmonies and snippets of songs added to the sense of excitement and anticipation for what we were about to see and hear.

As the postcard reminded us, we were here to "celebrate the words and music of Jerry Herman," a Tony Award winner and one of Broadway's most accomplished composer/ lyricists. Mr. Herman gave Mame and Dolly, two of the strongest comedic heroines in musical theatre. He gave us La Cage aux Folles, the first commercially successful musical to glorify drag-queens. He gave us Mack & Mabel, Dear World and The Grand Tour. In short he has given us forty years of outstanding, award-winning musical comedies. Through 40 years of dedication he has helped define this distinctly American art form. Mr. Herman has indeed given us much to celebrate.

Conceived by Paul Gilger, Showtune weaves together songs from eight of Herman's musicals. The idea is to bring a fresh perspective to these classic musical standards. To the songwriter's delight, the new slant also helps to emphasis the "lyricist" in "composer/lyricist," as the songs take on meaning unto themselves. Herman notes that they have ""their own little stories having nothing to do with the way they're done in the actual shows."

Two fine examples of this reinvention are taken from Mame. Perhaps the funniest moment of the evening features a very pregnant ingenue asking, "What Do I Do Now?" Her answer is, "Tap Your Troubles Away?" Do I need to assure you there is nothing funnier than a pregnant woman tap dancing? There is also a very clever rendition of "Bosom Buddies,"" which pits Herman's two musical mavens, Mame and Dolly, against one another.

Director/Choreographer, Joey McKneely successfully creates some interesting stage pictures and keeps the show moving at an even keel. Accompanied by the very talented and charming Bobby Peaco, the six-person cast gives some rousing performances. There are some moments during the evening that feel forced both vocally and emotionally. However like any good musical revue, each singer has their moment to shine. Sandy Binion gives a heartfelt performance of "Time Heals Everything" and Paul Harman revels in his rendition of ""A Little More Mascara". The stand out performer is newcomer Tom Korbee. The stage gets a little brighter every time he makes an entrance. When left on stage to croon ""It Only Takes A Moment," it is obvious that Korbee's moment has come.

The intention of the producers is to make the evening feel as if it is taking place in your living room. The intimate Theatre At Saint Peter's is amenable to this concept. With its minimal costumes and set, the production's focus is appropriately on the performers and the music. One small quibble is the questionable rake at the back of the stage that seems somewhat treacherous especially to the ladies in their high heels.

With Jerry Herman's life affirming songs, Showtune is uplifting and fun. Skip American Idol and spend the evening with a real American treasure.

For CurtainUp's review of Jerry Herman's memoir, also called Show Tune go here.
Showtune: The Words & Music of Jerry Herman Songs by Jerry Herman
Conceived by Paul Gilger
Arranged by James Followell
Directed and Choreographed by Joey McKneely
Cast: Sandy Binion, Paul Harman, Russell Arden Koplin, Thomas Korbee Jr., Karen Murphy, Bobby Peaco and Martin Vidnovic
Scenic Designer: Klara Zieglerova
Lighting Designer: Brian Nason
Costume Designer: Trach Christensen
Sound Designer: Peter Fitzgerald
Running time: 2 hours, includes one 15-minuteintermission
Theatre At St. Peter's Church (619 Lexington Ave. @ 54th Street, City Corp Center) Tickets $65; 212-239-6200
2/27/03 - 3/30/03; opening 2/27/03--extended to 5/11/33--and then re-scheduled to close 4/13
Tuesdays at 7pm Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm Matinees at 2pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Reviewed by Eunice Marquet based on February 26th press performance
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