You don’t always need a big production to evoke the joy of memorable composing for Broadway shows. There is absolute delight in the concert revival of “Jerry’s Girls” in the Musicals in Mufti series of the York Theatre Company. Three splendid singers—Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Christine Pedi and Stephanie Umoh—and Eric Svejcar, musical director and one-man orchestra at the piano, do the job amazingly in presenting the work of Jerry Herman.
Director Pamela Hunt has built in a steady supply of movement that keeps the show zipping along. The women smoothly shift positions on stage, rolling their music stands along for song references, needed after only a week of rehearsals. That’s the routine of such low-budget shows at the York, and there is generally a congenial feeling of spontaneity. The expertise of D’Abruzzo, Pedi, Umoh and pianist Svejcar provide sparkling entertainment and do justice to Herman.
“Jerry’s Girls” was performed on Broadway in 1985. This reprise packs much nostalgia with respect to Herman’s career as the singers perform one hit after another. D’Abruzzo, Pedi and Umoh have individual strengths, and the song selections provide opportunity to display them.
Pedi, for example, has a flair for comedy, illustrated by her hilarious rendition of “Gooch’s Song” from “Mame,” dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. But she also can turn on the passion, exemplified by her singing “If He Walked Into My Life,” also from “Mame.”
D’Abruzzo has a special twinkle and sauciness, as when she and Umoh team to amusingly sing “Busom Buddies” (“Mame”), but she can also soar with the “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly!”
Umoh has what it takes to become a major star. She has terrific stage presence, power and acting ability, and she pulls it all together when she sings “I am What I Am,” an exciting rendition of the coming-out anthem from “La Cage Aux Folles.” She demonstrates that the impassioned musical statement can be as strong and meaningful coming from a woman as from a man. Umoh is also a knockout with “It Only Takes a Moment” (“Hello, Dolly!”) and “I Won’t Send Roses” and “Movies Were Movies” (both from “Mack and Mabel”).
Apart from the striking solos, the three work beautifully together in creating a charming ambiance, as when they do “Tap Your Troubles Away,” “Mame,” “Shalom” and “Milk and Honey,” “La Cage Aux Folles” and “The Best of Times.” They do a hilarious burlesque-style “Take It All Off,” with Pedi topping it with the very funny “Put it Back On.”
There are projections (design by Justin West) on a screen at the back of the stage to note what shows the songs come from, or to picture a scene to suggest a theme, as with a movie theater for “A Movies Medley.” It is also nice to see a portrait of Jerry Herman. At the York Theater at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street). Phone: 323-935-5820. Reviewed August 7, 2017.