Reviews

Jerry’s Girls at the Menier Chocolate Factory – review

The musical revue opens in central London

Julie Yammanee, Jessica Martin and Cassidy Janson, © Tristram Kenton
Julie Yammanee, Jessica Martin and Cassidy Janson, © Tristram Kenton

There’s a quiet magic to a musical revue – the chance to revel in the best and boldest numbers of some of theatre’s greats.

Within the intimate confines of the Menier Chocolate Factory comes the latest offering – a restaging of Jerry’s Girls, assembled from the finest tunes by Jerry Herman and first seen on Broadway in 1985. It now returns to UK stages for the first time since Herman’s death in 2019.

Herman was responsible for some of the greatest tunes and lyrics in musical history – with pieces like Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Mack and Mabel, La Cage aux Folles and more to his name – which offered a treasure trove of material for Larry Alford, who first assembled the two-hour piece with Herman in the 1980s. 

Director Hannah Chissick really nails the earnest, laid-back vibe required. Setting the revival backstage at a theatre, Herman’s music expresses the thoughts, desires and regrets of three women, grappling with their various stages of life – early love, marriage and beyond. At the heart of the action sits their greatest love affair of all – the thrilling, fickle world of showbusiness. 

Cassidy Janson, Jessica Martin and Julie Yammanee credit Tristram Kenton
Julie Yammanee, Jessica Martin and Cassidy Janson, © Tristram Kenton

Nothing is ever forced – the show is presented with a breezy, cheery languor that is consistently enchanting. Each of the three stars – Julie Yammanee, Cassidy Janson and Jessica Martin – have their time in the spotlight, delivering solos, duets and ensemble numbers with pithy grace, bathed in the warm glow of Philip Gladwell’s lighting. 

Before press night, critics were informed that Janson had suffered an injury and would be doing an adapted form of choreography – but there wasn’t a single sign of that in Matt Cole’s wonderfully irreverent and charming sequences. 

What the production highlighted was the sheer voracity with which Herman wrote wonderful roles for women: in an industry that seems to consign female performers of a certain age to the background, Herman understood that some of the richest, funniest and most sentimental moments in life come after marriage – a life lived can be just as romantic as a love found. 

In the lull between a shimmering revival of La Cage aux Folles last summer, and before Hello, Dolly! heads to The London Palladium in a few weeks’ time, Jerry’s Girls is a wonderful way to get a Herman fix of the highest order.