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Jerry Herman
Herman at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors
Born(1931-07-10)July 10, 1931[1]
New York City, U.S.
DiedDecember 26, 2019(2019-12-26) (aged 88)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
MonumentsJerry Herman Ring Theatre, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Miami (BA)
Partner(s)Martin Finkelstein (d. 1990)[2][3]
Terry Marler (?–2019)[4]
Musical career
GenresMusical theatre
Occupation(s)Composer, Lyricist
Years active1954–2019

Gerald Sheldon Herman (July 10, 1931 – December 26, 2019) was an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway theatre.

One of the most commercially successful Broadway songwriters of his time, Herman was the composer and lyricist for a number of hit musicals, starting in the 1960s, that were characterized by an upbeat and optimistic outlook and what Herman called "the simple, hummable showtune". His shows include Hello, Dolly! (1964), at one time the longest-running musical in Broadway history, which also produced the hit title song for Louis Armstrong; Mame (1966), a vehicle for Angela Lansbury; and La Cage aux Folles (1984), the first hit Broadway musical about a gay couple.

In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He was a recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    12 057
    5 046
    56 847
    6 685
  • Jerry Herman, part 1
  • Jerry Herman 2020 Interview With Barbara Walters 1983/84
  • Jerry Herman Tribute | 1984 Tony Awards
  • Jerry Herman's Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl 1993
  • RARE: Jerry Herman sings with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles


Early life

Herman was born in Manhattan and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, the only child of musically inclined, middle-class Jewish parents.[10][11] He learned to play piano at an early age, and he frequently attended Broadway musicals.

Herman's father Harry was a gym teacher and in the summer worked in the Catskill Mountains hotels. His mother Ruth (née Sachs) also worked in the hotels as a singer,[12] pianist, and children's teacher, and eventually became an English teacher. Herman told People Magazine in 1986 that his mother, who died in 1954, long before his success on Broadway, "was glamorous like Mame and witty like Dolly."[12]

After marrying, his parents lived in Jersey City and continued to work in the summers in various camps until they became head counselors and finally ran Stissing Lake Camp in the small town of Pine Plains, New York, in the Taconic 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.[5] Herman graduated from Jersey City's Henry Snyder High School.[13]

At age 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,[14] which has one of the nation's most avant garde theater departments.[citation needed] While an undergraduate student at the University of Miami, Herman produced, wrote and directed a college musical called Sketchbook. It was scheduled to run for three performances, but the show was so popular it ran for an additional 17 performances.[15] Herman belonged to the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.[16]

Herman graduated from the University of Miami in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1980.[17][clarification needed]

Early career

Following his graduation from the University of Miami in 1953, 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.[18] It was his only show his mother saw; she died of cancer at the age of forty-four in December 1954.[19] Herman said "I went into serious grieving."[20]

In 1957, Herman approached the owner of a West Fourth Street jazz club called the Showplace and asked to put on a revue. 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.[21]

Herman next collected enough original material to put together an Off-Broadway 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.[22][23]

Broadway career

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.[24] 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 in 1961. The show, about American tourists in Israel, starred Robert Weede, Mimi Benzell and Molly Picon. It received respectable reviews, was nominated for a Tony award, and ran for 543 performances.[12][25]

Herman met playwright Tad Mosel in 1960 and they 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 in December 1961 but closed after 13 performances.[26] The show has never been performed since. The failure of the musical hurt Herman, who felt that the direction and casting had not worked, but described his decision to make it as a "very brave thing for me to do...It was a dark piece, something more suited to early Sondheim than me".[26]

Hello, Dolly!

In 1964, producer David Merrick united Herman with musical actress Carol Channing and librettist Michael Stewart for a project that was to become one of his more successful, Hello, Dolly!.[12] The original production ran for 2,844 performances, the longest running musical for its time, and was later revived three times.[27] 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.[27]


In 1966, Herman's next musical was the 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.[28][29]


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, also written in collaboration with Michael Stewart, his personal favorite score[30] 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.[31][32]

La Cage aux Folles

In 1983, Herman had his third hit with La Cage aux Folles starring George Hearn and Gene Barry, a show that was notable for being one of the first hit Broadway musicals centered around a gay couple. The musical was tried out in Boston, where Herman worried:[33]

A man singing a love song to another man--I don't think that's ever been done in a Broadway musical before. And, I mean, this was Boston, Katherine Cornell country. Frankly, I didn't know whether or not they'd throw stones. The audience gave it an ovation. That's when I started to think, 'We've done something right. They've bought the characters.' "

— Jerry Herman

Ticket sales were strong for its Boston tryout; a two-week extension required the box office to remain open for 36 hours straight to handle the demand.[33] Advance sales for its Broadway debut at the Palace Theatre were described as "something approximating outright pandemonium."[33] La Cage aux Folles won the Tony Award for Best Musical (1983), later became the only musical to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice (2005 and 2010).[27]

Jerry's Girls

A revue of Herman's work ran on Broadway from December 1985 to April 1986: Jerry's Girls featured Dorothy Loudon, Leslie Uggams, and Chita Rivera.[34]


Many of Herman's show tunes have become pop standards. "Hello, Dolly!" was a No. 1 hit in the United States for Louis Armstrong, knocking The Beatles from No. 1 in 1964 after a 14-week run at the top ("I Want to Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", and "Can't Buy Me Love.").[35][36] A French recording by Petula Clark[37] charted in the Top Ten in both Canada and France.[38]

"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.[39] "I Am What I Am" from La Cage aux Folles was recorded by Gloria Gaynor.[40]

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", "We Need a Little Christmas," and "Bosom Buddies" from Mame; and "Tap Your Troubles Away", "I Won't Send Roses" and "Time Heals Everything" from Mack & Mabel.[41][42] His "I Am What I Am," written for La Cage aux Folles, became a gay pride anthem.[12][33]

Impact and recognition

According to The Washington Post, Herman's 1983 La Cage aux Folles, which centered on a gay couple whose son is about to marry the daughter of a conservative family, "arrived during the height of the AIDS epidemic and helped put gay life into the cultural mainstream at a time when many gay men were being stigmatized."[12]

Herman is the only composer/lyricist to have had three original productions open on Broadway at the same time, from February to May 1969: Hello, Dolly!, Mame , and Dear World.[27] He was the first (of two) composers/lyricists to have three musicals run more than 1500 consecutive performances on Broadway (the other being Stephen Schwartz): Hello, Dolly! (2,844 performances), Mame (1,508), and La Cage aux Folles (1,761).[27] Herman is honored by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard.[43]

The Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, the campus theater at the University of Miami, his alma mater, is named in his honor.[44] He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982.[45]

Herman's work has been the subject of two popular musical revues, Jerry's Girls conceived by Larry Alford,[46] and Showtune (2003) conceived by Paul Gilger.[47]

A 90-minute documentary about his life and career, Words and Music by Jerry Herman, by filmmaker Amber Edwards, was screened in 2007 and then broadcast on PBS.[48] [49] In the 2008 animated film WALL-E, Herman's music from Hello, Dolly! is a theme for the character WALL-E.[50]

In 1989, American-playwright Natalie Gaupp wrote a short play titled The Jerry Herman Center.[27] The play is a comedy which portrays the lives of several patients in "The Jerry Herman Center for Musical Theatre Addiction."[27] In 2012, Jason Graae and Faith Prince collaborated on The Prince and the Showboy, a show which pays tribute to Herman; Graae worked extensively with Herman and described him as "a survivor of the highest degree [who] lives his life as an eternal optimist."[51]

In 2010, he received a Kennedy Center Honor. Introduced by Angela Lansbury, there were performances by Carol Channing, Matthew Morrison, Christine Baranski and Christine Ebersole, Laura Benanti, Sutton Foster, Matthew Bomer and Kelli O' Hara, 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree Chita Rivera, an unknown choir that included the Gay Mens Chorus of Washington, and Lansbury. Also honored were talk show host/actress Oprah Winfrey, dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones, country singer-songwriter Merle Haggard, and singer-songwriter/musician Paul McCartney.

Personal life and death

Having a flair for decorating in the 1970s, Herman took a break from composition after the failure of Mack and Mabel. Architectural Digest wrote about the firehouse he renovated and he also redecorated other houses and sold them. According to The Washington Post, Herman decorated three dozen homes.[12] Herman reportedly listed his 4,088-square-foot (379.8 m2) West Hollywood condominium apartment for sale early in 2013.[2][52][53]

Herman was openly gay, and at the time of his death was partnered with Terry Marler, a real estate broker.[4]

Herman was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1985.[54] As noted in the Words and Music PBS documentary, "He is one of the fortunate ones who survived to see experimental drug therapies take hold and was still, as one of his lyrics proclaims, 'alive and well and thriving' over a quarter of a century later."[55]

Herman's memoir, Showtune, was published in 1996.[56]

He died at a hospital in Miami on December 26, 2019, at age 88.[57][11]



Broadway musicals
Other stage


Source: TCM[63]


Awards and honors

Grammy Awards

  • 1966 Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album (Mame)[69]
  • 1964 Song of the Year (Hello, Dolly!)[70]

Tony Awards

  • 2009 Special Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre[71]
  • 1984 Best Original Score (La Cage aux Folles)[72]
  • 1964 Best Composer and Lyricist (Hello, Dolly!)[72]


  1. ^ Trounson, Rebecca (December 27, 2019). "Jerry Herman, composer behind 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'La Cage aux Folles,' dies at 88". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ a b Zak, Dan (December 2, 2010). "Broadway legend Jerry Herman, no stranger to a full house". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Weinraub, Bernard (July 26, 1998). "Theater; Celebrating His Music And Precious Life Itself". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Kennedy, Mark (December 27, 2019). "'Mame,' 'Hello, Dolly!' composer Jerry Herman dies at 88". Associated Press News. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Citron, Stephen (2004). Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 10–14, 23. ISBN 0-300-10082-5. LCCN 2003027632. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Ten-Tronck, Rob (2005). Celebrity Locator 2006-2007. Axiom Information Resources. ISBN 9780943213798. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  7. ^ "History of the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre". University of Miami. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  8. ^ "Jerry Herman Biography". IMDb. Retrieved December 5, 2012. University of Miami (Bachelor of Arts) and the Parsons School of Design
  9. ^ "Jerry Herman recalls Eydie Gorme". Miami Herald. La vida local. August 14, 2013. Archived from the original on December 11, 2013. ...Herman, 82, of Miami Beach...
  10. ^ "Herman, Jerry". Archived from the original on December 8, 2006. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  11. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (December 27, 2019). "Jerry Herman, Composer of 'Hello, Dolly!' and Other Hits, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Schudel, Matt (December 27, 2019). "Jerry Herman, composer of 'Hello, Dolly!' and other Broadway hits, dies at 88". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 27, 2019. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Ewen, David. Popular American Composers from Revolutionary Times to the Present: A Biographical and Critical Guide, Volume 1, p. 51. Retrieved June 6, 2012. "Following his graduation from Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, he enrolled at the Parsons School of Design in New York intending to become an interior decorator."
  14. ^ "Jerry Herman" Retrieved June 26, 2018
  15. ^ "University of Miami's Department of Theatre Arts to Honor Jerry Herman at 75th Anniversary Concert, 3/3", February 14, 2014
  16. ^ Citron, Stephen, p. 27
  17. ^ "Beloved Broadway composer Jerry Herman remembered". U News. December 27, 2019. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  18. ^ Citron, Stephen, p. 33
  19. ^ "Jerry Herman Biography" Retrieved September 1, 2019
  20. ^ Citron, Stephen, p. 35
  21. ^ Citron, Stephen. pp.39-40
  22. ^, Parade information
  23. ^ Suskin, Steven."Oh! Captain and Jerry Herman's Parade" Archived January 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine,, November 3, 2002
  24. ^ " From A to Z Broadway" Playbill (vault). Retrieved June 26, 2018
  25. ^ " Milk and Honey Broadway" Playbill (vault). Retrieved June 26, 2018
  26. ^ a b Stephen Citron (October 1, 2008). Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune. Yale University Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-0-300-13324-0.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h "BREAKING: Legendary Composer and Lyricist Jerry Herman Has Passed Away at 88". Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  28. ^ Mame Retrieved June 26, 2018
  29. ^ Mame Retrieved June 26, 2018
  30. ^ Klein, Alvin. "Theater. 'Mack and Mabel' With a New Finale" The New York Times, July 3, 1988
  31. ^ Evans, Everett (May 15, 2015). "Cult favorite 'Mack and Mabel' comes to Stages". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  32. ^ "Dear World Will Preem at Goodspeed-at-Chester Fall 2000". Playbill. March 15, 2000. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  33. ^ a b c d Richards, David (August 14, 1983). "Jerry Herman's Gilded 'Cage'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  34. ^ William A. Henry III. "Theater: Leading Ladies. Actresses reign over Broadway" Time (subscription required), December 30, 1985
  35. ^ Adams, Greg. "Hello, Dolly!" AllMusic. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  36. ^ "Top Records of 1964" Billboard, January 2, 1965. p. 6. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  37. ^ " "Hello, Dolly!" by Petula Clark" Discogs. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  38. ^ "Record Charts - Petula Clark". Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  39. ^ "Eydie Gorme Grammy" National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  40. ^ "Gloria Gaynor - I Am What I Am (Vinyl)" Discogs. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  41. ^ Jerry Herman PBS. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  42. ^ Rimalower, Ben. "Full Of Shine And Full Of Sparkle: Top Ten Jerry Herman Songs" Playbill, December 7, 2013
  43. ^ Scott, Kelly. "Jerry Herman" Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2010
  44. ^ "History of the Ring".
  45. ^ "Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1982". Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved November 5, 2010.
  46. ^ "'Jerry's Girls' listing Retrieved June 26, 2018
  47. ^ " 'Showtune' History", Retrieved June 26, 2018
  48. ^ Harvey, Dennis. "Review. Words and Music by Jerry Herman " Variety, October 23, 2007
  49. ^ Simon, John. Words and Music by Jerry Herman, January 9, 2008
  50. ^ Chriss Willman (July 10, 2008). "WALL-E Meets Dolly!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  51. ^ Wong, Curtis M. (August 21, 2012). "Faith Prince, Jason Graae Dish On Their 54 Below Cabaret Gig, Broadway And Jerry Herman". HuffPost. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  52. ^ "Jerry Herman" (fee, via Fairfax County Public Schools). Encyclopedia of World Biography. Vol. 20. Detroit: Gale. 2000. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1631007519. Retrieved December 5, 2013. The financial success of Dolly allowed Herman to buy an old firehouse and renovate it. The magazine House Beautiful ran an article on it, and Herman's second career was born. During the 1970s, he turned to decorating houses and reselling them. Herman could have lived well just off the profits of his hits, but he found decorating to be therapeutic. Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  53. ^ "Jerry Herman Flips Out in West Hollywood". the REAL ESTALKER. February 8, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013. (blog)
  54. ^ Campbell, Mary. "Drug Lets Show Go On for Compose" Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1997
  55. ^ "Words and Music by Jerry Herman" PBS. Retrieved December 6, 2010
  56. ^ Jerry Herman (1996). Showtune: A Memoir. Donald I. Fine Books. ISBN 978-1-55611-502-8.
  57. ^ Trounson, Rebecca. "Jerry Herman, composer behind "Hello, Dolly!" and "La Cage aux Folles," dies at 88" Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2019
  58. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Simonson, Robert (December 27, 2019). "Jerry Herman, Composer of Tuneful Broadway Hits, Dies at 88". Playbill. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  59. ^ Citron, Stephen. Madame Aphrodite Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune, Yale University Press, 2008, ISBN 0300133243, p. 287
  60. ^ Madame Aphrodite Retrieved June 26, 2018
  61. ^ Showtune Retrieved June 26, 2018
  62. ^ Suskin, Steven. "On The Record: 'Into the Woods' with 'Miss Spectacular'" Playbill, July 28, 2002
  63. ^ "Jerry Herman Filmography" Retrieved June 26, 2018
  64. ^ " Mrs. Santa Claus Overview" Retrieved June 26, 2018
  65. ^ "Broadway Bigs, Choreographer Bill T. Jones and Composer Jerry Herman Awarded Kennedy Center Honors" Daily News (New York), December 6, 2010
  66. ^ Willis, John (July 1, 2002). Theatre World 1998-1999. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-55783-433-1.
  67. ^ "NYU to honor Broadway's Herman" Variety, November 8, 1999
  68. ^ "History and Honorary Degree Recipients | Commencement". University of Miami. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  69. ^ "9th Annual Grammy Awards" National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  70. ^ "7th Annual Grammy Awards" National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 26, 2018
  71. ^ "Jerry Herman, 2009 Special Tony Recipient, Takes a Moment to Reflect on a Lifetime" Playbill, August 30, 2011
  72. ^ a b "Winners". Retrieved December 29, 2019.

Further reading

  • Showtune: A Memoir by Jerry Herman (1996) (with Marilyn Stasio), Donald I. Fine Books, an imprint of Penguin Books
  • Citron, Stephen. Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune (2004), Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-10082-5

External links

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