The songwriter for such classical Broadway musical comedies as “Hello Dolly!” and “Mame” and later “La Cage Aux Folles,” Jerry Herman’s career has spanned spans five decades. His first work, the revue “From A to Z” was produced in 1960; a 2010 restaging of the 1983 “La Cage Aux Folles” won the Tony award for best revival of a musical. “Hello Dolly,” which starred Carol Channing in its original Broadway production, has had several successful revivals through the years, including one with Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway in 1967.
Among Herman’s most memorable songs are “Hello, Dolly,” as well as “It Only Takes a Moment,” “Before The Parade Passes By” and “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from “Hello Dolly!” Aside from “Mame’s” title song, that show introduced “If He Walked Into My Life” and “We Need a Little Christmas.”
The anthemic “I Am What I Am” is probably “La Cage Aux Folles” best-known song. Herman told The Times’ Susan King in 2010 that “I did the show not as a gay activist, that's not what I am. I did the show because I thought it was a great piece of entertainment and entertainment is my middle name.”
“Dolly” and “Mame” both were made into movies, with Barbara Streisand in the role of Dolly Levi and Lucille Ball as Mame. “La Cage Aux Folles” had the reverse trajectory — it was adapted from the French film “La Cage Aux Folles.”
Though it was not a hit on the order of “Dolly” or “Mame,” the 1974 musical “Mack and Mabel” about early Hollywood’s Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand is one of Herman’s personal favorites. A loosely structured “greatest hits” review, “Jerry’s Girls,” played a four-month run on Broadway in 1985-86.
Herman has won the Tony award for best score twice, for “Hello Dolly” and “La Cage Aux Folles.” In 2009, he received the Tony Awards’ Lifetime Achievement award. He published a memoir, “Showtune,” written with Marilyn Stasio, in 1996.