“HERMAN ON HERMAN: Peggy Sings Jerry”
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency – May 6
It’s hard not to make it a party when singing the songs of Jerry Herman, and singer Peggy Herman (not related by blood but definitely by admiration) certainly did her hostess-with-the-mostess best in her debut at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, celebrating the release of the CD based on her show “HERMAN ON HERMAN: Peggy Sings Jerry.” She clearly loved what she was doing and she was secure enough in her abilities as a singer to allow the songs to emerge as the real stars of the evening.
Herman has great control over her voice, and it has considerable range—often a coffee-flavored alto that works on the jazzier arrangements, and then suddenly a brassy take-no-prisoners approach when called for in some of the big, bold numbers. She also expertly worked the space, traversing the small stage to sing even to those in the farthest corners of the room. She offered a few anecdotes about the songs and shows, and unlike many other cabaret artists, never succumbed to the temptation to make the show about herself; instead, she put herself in service to the great material.
Herman began the show with a slowed-down, slow-building “It’s Today,” suggesting something much more sensual and intimate than a birthday or New Year’s party; a grown-up kind of party. She followed with “Loving You” (from the film version of Mame) in a more upbeat and sunny fashion.
With “As Simple as That,” Herman displayed great professional polish, but was perhaps being too careful and, so, did not allow herself to get lost in the emotional pull. However, she continued to warm to the material and the room and continued to take more and more risks as the show went on, to great effect. She delighted in the storytelling aspect of “Best in the World” and found new nuances and phrasing in a jazz-inflected “Mame,” without overplaying the comedy. Her rendition of “If He Walked Into My Life,” which began with just guitar accompaniment (Steve Benson), really brought out her vulnerability. She continued to surprise by following that up with the sassy and brassy “Wherever He Ain’t,” taking her voice to as yet revealed Mermanesque places.
Donning a black derby hat, Herman seamlessly transformed into the male lover in a very touching “I Won’t Send Roses”; even better was when she removed the hat and delivered the last verse as the female half, singing “So who needs roses or stuff like that…” Heartbreaking, and one of the best moments in a show with many fine ones.
Herman and her musicians (musical director/pianist Alex Rybeck, percussionist Rex Benincasa, guitarist Steve Benson, bassist Jered Egan) offered fourteen songs that showed both Hermans at their best and displayed a variety of styles for both composer and singer. She closed with an energetic, extended dance mix, a samba-style mash-up of “The Best of Times” and “Before the Parade Passes By,” which had her dancing with her musicians. Many in the audience rose to their feet to join the celebration. Herman wasn’t about to let this time and this parade pass her by, and she thoroughly enjoyed that closing moment.
Although it must certainly be exciting to play Feinstein’s for the first time, Herman was a little too effusive in her thank-you’s, seemingly thanking everyone who had anything to do with her career (voice teacher, graphic artist, publicist, her musical and directing team) and others (celebrities in the audience, a son and his pregnant wife). It was by far the most she spoke all evening.
Kudos must be given to Rybeck’s inventive arrangements and the directing team of Tommy Tune and Peter Glebo, who kept the energy unflagging and the moods varied and colorful. All in all, “Herman on Herman” made for a very entertaining evening—a terrific singer singing great songs. It’s as simple as that.
About the Author
Kevin Scott Hall performed in cabaret clubs for many years and recorded three CDs, including “New Light Dawning” in 1998, which received national airplay. He also worked at the legendary piano bar, Rose’s Turn, and has taught cabaret workshops and directed shows since 1995. Kevin earned his MFA in Creative Writing at City College of New York. He is an adjunct professor in the Theatre and English departments at City College and Borough of Manhattan Community College. His novel, “Off the Charts!” was published in 2010, and his memoir, “A Quarter Inch from My Heart” (Wisdom Moon), in 2014. Kevin writes a monthly column and entertainment features for Edge Media Network, writes reviews for BistroAwards.com, and freelances for other publications.