Showtune: A Memoir

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Donald I. Fine Books, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 277 pages
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The creator of three of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, Jerry Herman is a theatrical institution. His rise from anonymity as a youth in Jersey City to become one of the most successful composer-lyricists ever is candidly recounted here in his own words. When Herman was seventeen, his mother set up, via "the mother Mafia", a meeting with the legendary composer of Guys and Dolls, Frank Loesser, who happened to be the brother of a friend of a friend of her hairdresser. Instead of the agreed-upon ten minutes, Loesser spent an entire afternoon with young Herman, encouraging him to take a shot at songwriting: "It's a tough life, but I see talent here", he said. Jerry Herman's first creation was a downtown cabaret show that soon had crowds of tuxedo-and-mink-wearing sophisticates lined up outside. (Mistaking them for patrons of the restaurant next-door, he politely asked them to move.) From there he was engaged to work on the musical that would become Milk and Honey, earning him a Tony nomination alongside Noel Coward and Richard Rodgers. Smash hits like Hello Dolly!, Mack and Mabel, La Cage aux Folles, and Mame were to follow. Herman's memoir goes beyond the creation of his legendary hits, including hitherto unrevealed, behind-the-scenes encounters with such luminaries as Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, and the notoriously volatile Broadway producer David Merrick, whose office was an intimidating bright red, top to bottom, matching his choleric temperament. Wonderfully recreating the golden age of the Broadway musical, Jerry Herman's revealing memoir is at once frank and uplifting, a characteristic of his songs as well as apersonal quality that has sustained him through a long career marked by its share of tragedy as well as triumph.

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User Review  - Kirkus

Notwithstanding frank discussion of his homosexuality and HIV- positive status, the composer-lyricist of Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles delivers a memoir as old-fashioned as his shows ... Read full review

Showtune: a memoir

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Bright and bubbly as the overture to a 1950s Broadway musical, this autobiography of lyricist-composer Herman is entertaining but lightweight. Best known for the songs and music from Hello, Dolly ... Read full review


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