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Jerry's Girls | Menier Chocolate Factory

Famous for musicals including Hello Dolly! (soon to be revived at the London Palladium with Imelda Staunton), La Cage aux Folles, and Mame, composer and lyricist Jerry Herman also created his own revue, Jerry’s Girls, in 1981 with Larry Alford and Wayne Cilentro. Now the show, which has previously featured such Broadway greats as Carol Channing and Chita Rivera, comes to London’s Menier Chocolate Factory for six weeks only. In this iteration, the ‘girls’ are not only performers Cassidy Janson, Jessica Martin and Julie Yammanee, as the production also features a female director, Hannah Chissick, and all-female six-piece band.

The first half leans heavily on the comedy in Herman’s numbers, with an extended vaudeville section including canes, fans and glittery hats, in which the trio perform songs including ‘Two-A-Day’ and ‘Take It All Off’ in front of a glittery red curtain. Janson and Martin facing off in ‘Bosom Buddies’ is a highlight, while Yammanee shows off her comedic chops as she takes centre-stage for ‘The Man in the Moon’.

There are also moments in which the performers are able to connect individually with the audience. Janson, in particular, is given plenty of these and shows off her vocal range and gift for emotional connection with numbers such as ‘I Won’t Send Roses’, ‘The Best of Times Is Now’, ‘Time Heals Everything’, and ‘If He Walked Into My Life’.  Martin also wows the audience with charisma and power in songs including ‘La Cage aux Folles’ and ‘That’s How Young I Feel’, while Yammanee is given more comedic numbers, but excels in these and is a delightfully energetic presence on stage throughout.

The theatre is at the centre of the piece, with the numbers largely staged in a dressing room. Paul Farnsworth’s design immerses us in the world of Jerry and his girls, with the aforementioned sparkly red curtain moving us from backstage to vaudeville stage with ease. Matt Cole’s choreography hits all the classic vaudeville notes but also adds some original and fun elements such as the use of typewriters in ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’. There are some clever lighting choices from designer Philip Gladwell, including the use of torches as the performers transform into ushers in ‘Movies Were Movies’, although the decision to move the performers into the aisles during this segment means a lack of visibility for some in the audience.

The show comes to a rousing climax as the trio list off performers who have made up ‘Jerry’s Girls’ over the years, complete with impressions and a nod to Imelda Staunton, before adding their own names and those of the band to the long list. The format will not be for everyone, with the songs and choreography standing for themselves with no book, but as a nostalgic night out for any theatre-lover, Jerry’s Girls cannot be beaten.

Jerry’s Girls runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 29th June. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Tristram Kenton


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