Saturday, May 22, 2010
Some Enchanted Evening?
We came out of Mitzi Gaynor's opening night at Feinstein's at the Regency on May 18 liking her so much, we wish we could give her one woman show, Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins, an unqualified rave - especially since it marks the veteran star's New York nightclub debut. Ain't that a kick in the head? After sixty-plus years in films, on television, and on nightclub and casino stages across the globe, La Gaynor has never taken a bite out of the Big Apple.
So when the still-curvaceous, glamorous Gaynor made her grand entrance on Tuesday evening, she was greeted with an ovation that can only be described as tumultuous. It was the climax of a steady hum of delicious tension and expectation which had charged the air with electricity as the audience awaited the start of a hotly-anticipated engagement.
90 minutes later, we exited the ballroom at Feinstein's curiously elated, but a little baffled and wondering what had just happened. Gaynor's song selections were wildly random (ranging from the expected South Pacific medley to a relatively new number from now-defunct Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone), and, we're sorry to report, largely forgettable. Gaynor's greatest assets during her heyday were her charm, vivacity, glamour, great gams, and her sparkling dancing ability. Today, she has charm and vivacity in spades; her glamour, especially as presented in six outrageous Bob Mackie confections, is as potent as ever; and her gams still look splendid. But whether it was because of the confines of the small-ish, awkwardly set up stage in the ballroom of the Regency, or Gaynor's own reluctance to shake her booty at age 78 ("I don't wanna show off no more," she sang, perhaps tellingly, in that number from Chaperone), there were few of the terpsichorean fireworks she once displayed on her legendary television specials. Gaynor's voice was never a prime strength, and now that she relies on it much more than her leggy high-kicking, its limitations are brought sharply into focus.
What kept the audience rapt with attention, then (besides the flouncy entrances with each new Mackie gown), was Gaynor's warmth, piss elegant humor, and magnetic storytelling abilities. She told more than a few howlers; we were in stitches, but her anecdotes, hysterical as they were, tended to ramble and lasted longer than her musical numbers. Which leads us to this conclusion: Mitzeleh (as her friend The Merm used to call her) would be best served nowadays by a touring Q&A program, rather than a full-scale nightclub act. If, as she sang, she doesn't want to "show off no more" - and one left Feinstein's feeling that all Mitzi really wants to do is tell salty stories and look glamorous - then she could sit down on stages with, say, Charles Busch or Bruce Vilanch or Rex Reed; reminisce, tell her tales, and show her vintage clips (which she does screen in her Feinstein's act, and which only serves to remind you of what you're not seeing in the current show). Gaynor did a program like this, in fact, a few years back in Los Angeles, we believe, with great success.
If, however, she truly does still have the urge to get up there and sing her heart out, Gaynor would be wise to eschew the overblown arrangements (her thin, wobbly voice had to compete with the synthesized strings and horns), trim the fat (a few, well-chosen, well-placed anecdotes), and tighten up the program with a carefully selected repertoire of songs which suit her style and range.
Mitzi's at Feinstein's through May 27th. Do we recommend that you go see her? Yes, so long as you know what you're getting into. It may not be the best nightclub act you've ever seen, but you'll have a hell of a good time.