Thursday, 25 March 2010

The sweet silver song of the lark

I managed to get free tickets to see a unique show last night. It's not every day that you get an opportunity to see a real Hollywood legend live on stage...

Shirley Jones (for it is she) has had a seven decade career in film, stage and TV. She was a child prodigy back in Pennsylvania, was lauded by Rodgers and Hammerstein - appearing on stage in South Pacific, and, most famously, on film in both Oklahoma and Carousel - and has played Vegas and Broadway but bizarrely, never London. She is of course more famous to the wider audience as the mother of the divine David Cassidy (her real life step-son) in The Partridge Family. All this, and more, Miss Jones included in the charming anecdotes with which she peppered the performance.

And what a performance! Opening with a video vignette of excerpts from her finest screen moments, including her Oscar-winning performance in Elmer Gantry, the lady herself appeared looking very well preserved and starry in her sparkly showbiz outfit. Admittedly her voice is not as polished nor as strong as it used to be (but then again, she is 76 years old after all), and on occasions she wobbled around the mellow notes and the quieter end of the register - but bejeezus can she still belt out the semi-operatic high notes! And belt them she did - a marvellous repertoire of songs from her films and shows, including You'll Never Walk Alone, People Will Say We're in Love, If I Loved You, 76 Trombones and much more, plus a well-aimed tribute to Sondheim (on the occasion of his 80th).

This was very much a show about the Cassidy family as well as Miss Jones' career - veering dangerously close to mawkishness on occasion, with tributes to her late husband Jack Cassidy and her sons. All this without a mention of Jack's numerous affairs with men, their divorce way back in the 1970s nor his unfortunate death in a house fire that may have been caused by a drunkenly dropped cigarette or a pan catching fire...

But we forgive her that. Her asides to the audience - particularly about on-screen kisses with a galaxy of Hollywood's greatest leading men, and her regret at never having had an affair with any of them - were delightful.

Speaking of her family, she was ably supported in the show by her lesser-known (but nonetheless very cute) son Patrick. His was a slightly more comedic and occasionally surreal turn, especially when he performed a "duet" with a cardboard mask of his older yet smaller brother David. However his take on his dad's brilliant song My Fortune Is My Face, and his masterful version of Robert Preston's classic Ya Got Trouble (a very complicated patter song from The Music Man that I have never heard anyone else do) more than made up for that.

In a show of almost two hours duration, the time flew by. Yes there are faults - the format is slightly stilted, the backing musicians (particularly the drums) almost drowned out the ageing diva, and the set is bizarrely cluttered - and I don't think I would have been happy to pay £42.50 for the top tickets. However, in all this was a joyful and memorable evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Here are a couple of classic moments from Miss Jones' career:

And here's that song from The Music Man (again):

Shirley Jones website

1 comment:

  1. I had almost forgotten we had seen her on stage.
    Thank you for reminding me with the link to this post


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