I've admired Jerry Herman ever since I became interested in musicals in the early 1970s. In fact, my parents and I saw "Mack & Mabel" in previews back in 1974, and later on I went standing room to see "La Cage Aux Folles" in 1984. His score for "Mame" was one of my mother's favorites, and it's easy to sing five or 10 of his songs from memory, because they stick in your head. These are not "simple show tunes," either -- many of them have complicated lyric structures, rhythms and melodies that make them interesting to listen to again and again. I even am something of a fan of "Dear World" and "The Grand Tour," even though those shows were flops, and the scores aren't as consistent as in Herman's hits.
The documentary is poignent both because it looks at Herman's triumphs and failures (and goes into the complicated history of "Hello, Dolly!" on the road and because Herman today still seems to love what he does. The commentary from Charles Nelson Reilly and Arthur Laurents is especially entertaining; Reilly offers great early anecdotes about Herman's career, and Laurents' commentaries on Herman's musicals are on target. "Dolly" and "Mame" are fantasy shows, and it's obvious that Herman believed everything he wrote. Plus, the archival footage is wonderful, from the photos of Herman as a youth to the film clips of musical numbers from long-ago productions, particularly "Parade," "Mame" and "Mack & Mabel."
This is an especially well-done documentary, containing many delights for theater buffs. And Herman's continued enthusiasm, shown has he coaches young performers, reminds you of why you love theater in the first place.