Hello, Dolly! composer Jerry Herman dies aged 88


Legendary Broadway composer Jerry Herman, who wrote hit musicals such as Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles, has died in Miami aged 88.

Over the course of his career, his work won four Tony Awards from seven nominations, as well as two Grammy Awards.

Born in New York in 1931, Herman learned to play the piano at an early age and was taken to Broadway frequently with his musical parents. Herman would spend his summers at a camp where his parents became counsellors, and it was here that he would first become involved with theatre, directing musical productions of Oklahoma!, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Upon graduating from the University of Miami, which was renowned for its avant-garde theatre department, Herman moved to New York and set about producing Broadway shows, his first being I Feel Wonderful. It was the first and only show his mother saw before she died of cancer aged 44.

Herman became interested in composing music and writing books, and compiled enough material for his own revues: Nightcap, and Parade. He was later approached by a producer who has seen a performance of the latter and asked whether he would be interested in composing the score for a new show about the founding of Israel.  What resulted was his first full Broadway musical, Milk and Honey, in 1960.

Four years later, producer David Merrick brought actress Carol Channing and librettist Michael Stewart together to work on a project which would become Hello, Dolly!. His most popular work, it ran for nearly 2,000 performances – the longest-running show at the time – and has been revived again and again. That year, it went head-to-head with Funny Girl, and swept the Tony Awards, taking home a record ten awards – a record that stood for 37 years.

His next work was the hit Mame two years later, which starred Angela Lansbury, and the next decade saw the musicals Dear World, Mack & Mabel and The Grand Tour premiere on Broadway.

In 1983, Herman had another major success with the musical La Cage aux Folles, one of the first Broadway shows to heavily feature a gay couple. The song featured the musical standard “I Am What I Am”, and won Herman the Tony for best musical once again.

Herman’s legacy to musical theatre was recognised by the American Theatre Wing when he was awarded the Special Tony Award in 2009, and he was later honoured at the White House by President Barack Obama in 2010 alongside Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.

Herman’s hit musical Hello, Dolly! Is set to return to London for a revival next year, which will be directed by Dominic Cooke and star Imelda Staunton.

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