Jerry’s Girls

Reviewer's Rating

I’m a fan of Jerry Herman. A real fan. I have his collected lyrics on my bookshelf. Mame and La Cage Aux Folles are two of my go-to recordings when I need a lift. I love Dear World and Mack & Mabel. I’ve even seen a production of The Grand Tour. I am a fan, a definite fan. No mistaking it. So I should be the perfect audience member and target market for Jerry’s Girls, the compilation show of the great man’s work that has just opened at Southwark’s Menier Chocolate Factory.

And yet… for whatever reason…and I’ll explore why in this review… it just didn’t do it for me. Certainly not in the way Katy Lipson’s excellent Jermyn Street production did back in 2015 anyway. And talking with friends during the interval it seems I wasn’t the only one to feel that although it was lovely to hear some old favourites well sung, as a whole, the show just doesn’t reach the heights of anything more than adequate.

So, the positives. The cast of three work their socks off and when the songs land they really do land.

Cassidy Janson is the strongest of the three, and with a beautiful tone and impressive support right through the register the songs she performs, especially the solos, are the best thing about the evening. Her reading of ‘I Won’t Send Roses’ is simply beautiful.

Jessica Martin has the first proper laugh of the show where her comedic talent is used to full extent as the ageing stripper whose parody number of ‘Take It All Off’ becomes ‘Put It Back On’.

Finally, the relative youngster of the trio, Julie Yammanee who I’ve seen performing to great effect in such shows as I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical seems oddly miscast. All the more so given the songs that she’s tasked with performing. Why would anyone young every sing Mame Dennis’s song ‘That’s How Young I feel’? It’s a song sung by an older woman, newly in love with life, looking back at her youth. To give it to the youngest member of the cast seems bizarre.

There are odd choices elsewhere too. Certain lyrical changes which jar might well be part of the show, so I won’t bother listing them.

Sarah Travis’ band, and Hannah Chissick’s direction are both nicely smooth, but there’s still something lacking and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

I had thought that it could possibly be the fact that the show is fronted by three women unlike, say, Side By Side By Sondheim which has a mixed sex line-up and therefore more scope for drama. However, looking back at my review of the 2015 Jermyn Street production that didn’t seem to be an issue then, so why would it now?

I think the best that I can come up with is that the casting of two of the three performers is just wrong for this show. Cassidy Janson aside, the rest of the cast is just too ‘nice’. Jessica Martin and Julie Yammanee are very talented performers, but just aren’t what the material needs which is, I would suggest, performers who give the impression of having ‘lived’ a bit more, and who are considerably rougher around the edges. Someone with the ‘lived experience’ of a Bea Arthur, or a Carol Channing. Though who they are, and where you’d find them in 21st Century London is anyone’s guess.


Venue: The Menier Chocolate Factory

Director: Hannah Chissick

Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman

Conceived by: Jerry Herman, Larry Alford, and Wayne Cilento

Cast: Cassidy Janson, Jessica Martin. Julie Yammanee

Dates: To 29th June 2024

Running time: 105 minutes including 1 x 15 minute interval

Date Seen: 23rd May 2024


Review by: Richard Voyce