From Publishers Weekly
Citron (The Musical from the Inside Out), the biographer of Broadway greats Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, offers up a comprehensive overview of composer Jerry Hermans works and a rose-tinted look at the man behind the music. Drawing on extensive interviews with Herman, Citron relays the arc of his life and career, from the ballad he wrote at the age of 13 (called "Its Not My Fault") to his critically acclaimed first musical, Milk and Honey (1961), to the smashing success of Hello Dolly! (1963). Citron obviously admires Herman and his oeuvre; in his acknowledgements, he writes "Herman is that rare subject, a joy for a biographer, possessed of total recall and never too busy to answer a question. Honest but never hurtful in discussing colleagues, giving but not controlling." This effusive praise extends to Hermans musicals: Mame is "foolproof" and "one of the finest musicals of the sixties," while a ballad from Mack and Mabel is "in the top echelon of dramatic art." And as for Hermans critics, Citron simply dismisses their claims. The result is a one-sided portrait of an unrelentingly nice guy. When Citron isnt lauding his subject, however, he does offer some knowledgeable insights into the musical qualities of Hermans shows. Though this is far from an objective look at Hermans life and work, it is the most thorough biography of this composer to date. As such, it may appeal to theatre scholars and musical aficionados. 40 Photos.
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While Citron never argues that the Broadway tunesmith for hits including Hello Dolly
, and La Cage aux Folles
poet of the American songbook--too many would counter that Hart, Porter, Ira Gershwin, or Sondheim merits that distinction--he strongly advocates Herman's place in the pantheon with such fellow lyricists. His ardent, erudite discussions of Herman's music and lyrics reveal oft-unacknowledged depth, wit, and artistic order in fluffy hits and lead-footed flops alike, but sometimes he seems overly partisan, blaming everyone but Herman for failures and noting every initial box-office stiff that is, thanks to a little tweaking, perky in its after-Broadway life. He is on solider ground recounting Herman's development from talented youth encouraged by parents to wunderkind with two great Broadway hits in a row to middle-aged man who felt abandoned by the theater. A triumphant late-life return to Broadway (La Cage
) and the achievement of the mature love relationship that had long eluded him (with the late Marty Finkelstein) make for a bittersweet showbiz ending. Jack HelbigCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved