In one of his earliest theater classes an eight year-old Andy Einhorn heard the song “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from the musical "Hello Dolly!" This Houston native was entranced by the tune that celebrated a world full of shine and sparkle
(From left) Lesli Margherita, Andrea Ross, Ryan Vona, Nicholas Christopher, Ashley Blanchet, and Andy Einhorn in “You I Like: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Herman.” (Jeff Lorch)
As some of the song's lyrics go:
“Put on your Sunday clothes there's lots of world out there
Get out the brilliantine and dime cigars
We're gonna find adventure in the evening air
Girls in white, in a perfumed night
Where the lights are bright as the stars”
“I hadn’t heard a song like that that elicited such joy,” explains Einhorn. "I remember wanting to run home and play it on the piano.”
The writer and composer behind that life-affirming song was Jerry Herman. With his lush lyrics and gorgeous, heart pumping melodies, the legendary songwriter holds the record as the only composer/lyricist in history to have three Broadway musicals run for more than 1,500 performances. And what musicals they are: "Hello, Dolly!," "Mame," and "La Cage aux Folles."
Einhorn would go on to become a prolific and Broadway music director and conductor working on a plethora of productions including “Carousel,” “Holiday Inn,” “Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway,” “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Brief Encounter,” and “Sondheim on Sondheim.” He has conducted orchestras around the nation. And if that is not enough, since 2011, he has been the music director and pianist for six-time Tony Award winner, Audra McDonald.
In 2017, Einhorn had the chance to work with the man behind the song that so enchanted him. That year he became the music supervisor and musical director for the Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Bette Midler. Einhorn not only was able to connect with his idol, the duo became good friends. “He was so full of life, so happy and always wanted everyone to feel that infectious energy,” remembers Einhorn.
Sadly Herman passed away in December, 2019. Yet shortly after Einhorn was asked by the 92nd St Y in New York City to create a performance celebration of Herman’s life and work. The performances took place in February 2020, only three months after Herman’s passing. “The whole idea took on this idea of “more people should know who Jerry, the artist was!” explains Einhorn.
From there Einhorn took that concert and created a cinematic adaptation of it. He conceived, wrote, music directed “You I Like: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Herman” for Pasadena Playhouse. Filled with beloved classics and unknown gems from Herman’s vast canon, the show also features anecdotes, quotes and insight into Herman’s work and passions.
Streaming virtually from Pasadena Playhouse’s PlayhouseLive the talented cast includes Ashley Blanchet, Nicholas Christopher, Lesli Margherita, Andrea Ross and Ryan Vona. "This group of five performers are the crème de la crème,” says Einhorn. “They all have great resumes and they’re consummate performers who bring Jerry’s work vividly to life.”
Einhorn, who misses Herman’s voice saying “hey kid!” to him, hopes that even more people gain an appreciation into Herman’s genius for writing such timeless songs. “Every song Jerry wrote, even though it is written for a character, is still relatable out of context,” says Einhorn.
As Einhorn explains, Herman is in a category with Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Frank Loesser, Jule Styne and Comden and Green. “They wrote from the heart,” says Einhorn. “They wrote what people could understand: songs about humanity, songs about the human condition and they tapped into a certain language of love that we can all relate to.”
Jeryl Brunner: What would you like people to know about "You I like"?
Andy Einhorn: This is a joy-filled celebration of an artist whom I believe is underappreciated. But Jerry was so influential in the American Musical Theater for giving us truly optimistic and masterful shows like "Hello Dolly!," "Mame," and "La Cage Aux Folles." He was often coined the “master of the showtune” because he could write those songs that would have you humming as you left the theater.
Jeryl Brunner: How did you determine which songs to include in Herman's repertoire?
Andy Einhorn: For me, I wanted to look at his love songs, his songs about family and his songs of optimism and joy. From there, I grouped them based on how many duets, ensemble numbers, ballads, etc. It was important for me to have a cross section of his works because despite him having many hits, several of his flops including "Mack and Mabel" and "Dear World" have beautiful songs that the world should know.
Jeryl Brunner: What stands out from your experience as the musical director of the Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!”?
Andy Einhorn: I learned a lot! Not only was conducting the show eight times a week a masterclass because I was watching people like Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce, Bernadette Peters, but I was experiencing a revival of WHY people attended the theater. We were performing escapist entertainment in early 2017 at the start of the last administration and I knew people wanted to have two and a half hours of pure joy when they stepped into the theater. The show resonated with audiences and that translated to a lot of happiness for those of us behind the scenes. It also gave me time to really listen to Jerry Herman’s lyrics and understand what a master of craft he was.
Jeryl Brunner: What would you like people to know about the Pasadena Playhouse?
Andy Einhorn: The theater is one of the premier regional theaters and it is a jewel box of a building. When we stepped into the space, it was the first time for many of us being back in a theater in months. We were all overwhelmed but delighted. Danny Feldman, the artistic director there, is a pal of mine and he’s really pushing the boundaries of their programming. For instance, they had a beautiful production of "Little Shop Of Horrors" with MJ Rodriguez as Audrey and George Salazar as Seymour. I think people can expect this theater to be the site of many upcoming groundbreaking works, especially coming out of the pandemic.
Jeryl Brunner: How did you get your start in musical theater and when did you know you had to be an artist?
Andy Einhorn: I’m very fortunate that I had a dream to want to work in musical theater as a kid and it has happened. During this pandemic, all of us are having the chance to reflect, so it’s been a lot of happy thoughts about the past and what all the experiences have meant to me. I grew up in Houston as a child actor and simultaneously took piano lessons. I always wanted to conduct on Broadway and somewhere along the way, I realized I had a stronger desire to be “behind the scenes” creating the work. I love the process of putting up a show and watching all the elements come together. The tech and preview portion of a run is where the magic happens.