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STAGE REVIEW : ‘Jerry’s Girls’ Brings Back Herman Tunes

The faintly patronizing title--"Jerry’s Girls"--refers to the leading ladies of Jerry Herman’s musicals, as well as to the roles they played. It’s the first indication that this compilation of Herman’s show tunes, in its area premiere at Long Beach’s Studio Theatre, is hardly on the cutting edge of musical revues.

But then, Herman has never been a Broadway pioneer. Even when his musicals deal with relatively untouched material, as in “La Cage aux Folles,” the music is resolutely straightforward and old-fashioned.

His best songs tend to be grand instead of great. They seldom tackle complicated feelings. The one notable exception in “Jerry’s Girls,” “If He Walked Into My Life” from “Mame,” is probably the greatest song Herman ever wrote.

But there are plenty of showstoppers in the rest of his repertoire, and most of them are in “Jerry’s Girls.” Enough of them actually stop the show in Long Beach to make up a fairly entertaining evening.

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Director Vincent F. Tampio has a cast of four, instead of the three stars and six back-up singers who recorded the cast album. Four is usually enough on a stage this small, but this stage does look sparsely populated on the biggest production numbers, such as “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “I Am What I Am.”

These “Jerry’s Girls” aren’t as distinctive as the originals (Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams, Andrea McArdle), but they do come through on most of their solos. Lucy Daggett raises the roof with a biting get-lost number, “Wherever He Ain’t,” from “Mack and Mabel.” Leslie Tinnaro (who alternates performances with Lauren Hathaway) deftly portrays both of the title characters in “I Won’t Send Roses,” from “Mack and Mabel.”

Laurie Herman displays a disarming comic naivete in “Tap Your Troubles Away” (again, from “Mack and Mabel"--has anyone thought of reviving this show?) and “Gooch’s Song” from “Mame.”

Daggett, Tinnaro and Herman play eccentric ladies of a certain age in “The Tea Party,” an intriguing number from “Dear World” that didn’t even make the “Jerry’s Girls” cast album. Laura Killingsworth, the fourth member of the cast, seemed somewhat nervous and mannered Saturday night.

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The principal design ingredient is the costuming by Ann Boddington. The initial outfits are glitzy black dresses that aren’t particularly flattering to this cast. But the fashion show becomes more interesting as the evening goes on. Killingsworth’s gown in “And I Was Beautiful” almost overshadows the song and singer.

Musical director Scott Gilbert is the sole accompanist, playing a backstage piano with aplomb.

At 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., through Jan. 28, with one Thursday performance Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $11-$12; (213) 494-1616.


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