Review – Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy in Concert, Arts Theatre

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Goodness. What with Jerusalem missing out on the Olivier Award for Best Play, there’s only so many shocks the Whingers can take in 24 hours.

But who would think that sweet, adorable Partridge Family mom, “legendary Hollywood and Broadway leading lady” and Academy Award winner Shirley Jones and her son Patrick Cassidy making their UK stage debuts would provide another?

There are of course people without the advanced seniority of the Whingers who have no idea who Shirley Jones is, but if they turned up at the Arts Theatre, (and let’s face it why would they if they hadn’t heard of her?) they would be in no doubt by the time Miss Jones finally stepped onto the stage.

Because helpfully Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy in Concert kicks off with her greatest moments through the medium of film clips projected onto a screen only slightly bigger than a tea tray. Highlights include Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Music Man, a montage of screen kisses with Hollywood greats (Cagney, Lancaster, Hope etc), duetting with Sinatra and beating Janet Leigh (for her role in Psycho) to the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (for Elmer Gantry), and receiving the award in a frock large enough to house the entire Partridge family.

But perhaps reminding us of Ms Jones in her prime when she sang those Rogers and Hammerstein classics beautifully was not the choicest way to prepare us for her entrance in a suitably showbizzy blue sparkly outtfit warbling “Tonight”. It was a bit like a variant on the I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue game of “One Song To The Tune Of Another” in which Miss Jones had been challenged to sing Sondheim in the style of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. The man in the row behind the Whingers gasped, “Oh my Lord!”.

Now we accept that “America’s First Lady Of Song” is 75 (going on 76 Trombones this month, a fact that more impressionable audience applauded for some reason) and that she wasn’t helped by a band that was horribly heavy on the Korg synthesiser producing voices unselected since the 1960s that would make Simon Bates‘ syrupy Our Tune theme sound like progressive rock, but surely someone should tell her? Not this audience. Half stared at their feet and the other half applauded enthusiastically. “You’re a wonderful audience” she enthused, perhaps not realising her decidedly elderly audience were, if not tone deaf, perhaps just deaf. The old woman next to Andrew had her fingers in her ears at one point and the one next to Phil was texting. Happily Miss Jones was oblivious to it all and sailed gamely onwards through the familiar waters of her oeuvre. Even when the technicians forgot to turn the reverb button off between songs (which was frequently) the redoubtable First Lady Of Tremolo was completely unfazed.

But worse was to come. After serially murdering a few of her classics like “If I Loved You” it was time for son Patrick to give mom some time off stage to allow both her and the audience to recover. Now, Mr Cassidy, is at 48 a good looking man, though you do sense that he’s horribly aware of the fact. But there’s something a bit scary about him and his very white teeth (Never trust a man with white teeth; he drinks neither red wine nor coffee and what kind of life is that?). With the aid of a head-set style microphone he took us on a musical journey through the family photographs, singing numbers to his mother, his father (Jack Cassidy), his wife and his brothers, culminating in a “duet” with a mask of his half-brother David Cassidy.

Now the Whingers have never been on an ocean liner (although Phil’s doormat these days is awash with Saga catalogues, so watch this space) but this show was turning out very like your worst cruise entertainment nightmares, the kind where you note with relief that the linen is embroidered with the words “SS Poseidon”.

Mister Cassidy went on to divulge to the audience that he is, in fact, heterosexual, explaining that despite “running on the treadmill to Oklahoma!” he is a red blooded male through and through. “Why can’t a man love listening to Judy Garland and want to have sex with her,” he asked, presumably rhetorically. “Because she’s dead,” hissed back a horrified Andrew.

Vanessa Feltz made the sensible decision to leave at the interval, but not the Whingers who are made of sterner stuff. Shirley returned after the break to deliver Oklahoma! selections, the lyric “the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye” gaining added piquancy from the showbiz schmaltz smothering the mostly startled London audience who were quite rightly embarrassed when she announced that she loved us. Somewhat redundantly she sang “Don’t throw bouquets at me”.

“It’s just a joy to sing those songs”, she reflected. If only that were true of listening to them. To be fair, she went on to provide a futher shock with a half-decent rendition of “Send In The Clowns”, acting the sentiment rather effectively.

Sadly it all went downhill with an ill-judged (on so many levels) “As Time Goes By” and a jaw-droppingly incoherent and inappropriate (despite her upcoming birthday) rendition of “76 Trombones” over the wheeze of the Korg.

Despite all this and the not-at-all-suitable-for-the-English gush, Jones does have a rather charming persona. But generous thoughts soon melted away when Cassidy returned to perform a rap version of “(Ya Got) Trouble (right here in River City)” from The Music Man and a “Till There Was You” in a slightly inappropriate duet with his mother.

The show is running at the Arts Theatre for only 12 performances and was half-full on Monday evening. The Whingers can assure you this will be your only opportunity to see Shirley Jones as it is difficult to imagine who might ask her back (aside from the dozen or so bachelors who gave her a standing ovation). Top price tickets are £42.50 and if we had paid we would have been spitting feathers.

Rating

36 Responses to “Review – Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy in Concert, Arts Theatre”

  1. Paz Says:

    Patrick Cassidy is well known in the Broadway and theatre community in the U.S.

    He has an official website at
    http://www.patrickcassidy.webs.com

    Check it out.

  2. TooCloseToTheTable Says:

    Thanks for the link Patrick! x

  3. webcowgirl Says:

    Wow! I felt bad about not going out with you guys but now it’s all done and dusted I feel I had a much better night at “White Guard.”


  4. I have never laughed so much at the thought of having sex with Judy Garland.

  5. jb Says:

    The news section of Patrick’s website makes for brilliant reading. Last night we were spared the interval or dry-humping Garland, but Send In The Clowns was not at all pleasant. And thanks for explaining the mysterious absence of Vanessa Feltz on a press night!

  6. Dickie and Butch Says:

    Another superb write-up. If Feltz left, then it must’ve been bad. I mean.. Christ. Bet Biggins loved it though..

    TooCloseToTheTable – ZING! Who do you blog as? You’re good.

  7. TooCloseToTheTable Says:

    I couldn’t possibly say! (because I don’t have a blog)

  8. J.A. Says:

    Well I enjoyed it! But that probably says more about me than the show.

  9. Aprille Says:

    We too left at half of the very short time.

    Everything was just odd except Ms Jones herself, the unpleasant venue and frankly rather odd audience who heckled throughout were all too much for us.

    Badly judged and very over priced.

  10. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    Judy Garland line BRILLIANT. Once again, thank God for the Whingers.

  11. Nicky Says:

    The tea tray observation is very accurate. Also, the Arts theatre has seen better days. The seats are so worn, that after 60 minutes, everyone was restless.
    I saw this on Wednesday night. There was 90 minutes straight through, no interval. Bobby Worth was guest drummer (highly talented) and a hit. I desperately wanted to cut off the Musical Director’s pony tail.
    Had a good time. I only know about Miss Jones from The Partridge Family. Had no idea she is a singer. OK, she does sing a tat high in places (which made me laugh and cringe in equal measure), but she’s pretty charming. Reminded me of one of The Golden Girls. Her banter is well rehearsed but endearing.
    Loved Patrick Cassidy (sexy guy), but he should replace the David Cassidy song with something else. I know about David, but knew nothing of Patrick.
    If they would could cut out some of the over-sentimental musical elements for more story telling, it would hit the mark.


  12. Originally scheduled to run until 3rd April, closing notices have been posted for March 27th. And having seen it, frankly I’m not surprised.

  13. JohnnyFox Says:

    Tonight the audience filled barely five rows with ‘management’ exhorting us to move down decidedly Too Close To The Front. The showreel failed to operate, resulting in Shirley gesticulating and audio-describing it in ways which might get her a job at the National Theatre. For the deaf dumb and blind matinees.

    There was no interval, management having sensibly decided this as an alternative to locking the doors.

    At the end about twenty munters, sorry, punters queued dutifully to have photos, body parts and plaster casts signed by La Jones, except for one septuagenarian with wild hair (I thought it might be Michael Foot but he’s dead) rushed headlong to the front and crashed into her as she stepped down from the stage.

    She did indeed look good for 75, and it’s interesting to note that the silver sparkly curtains she wore before the son’s filling-in are also available in black because that’s how she came out afterward.

    Unfortunately, merely looking good for 75 isn’t sufficient to sustain a West End evening, and not having been a star in the days when it paid serious money and therefore having to shore up your pension by touring this sort of ragbag is also not adequate justification for hiring a theatre, even such a dismal recycled strip club at the Arts, in London’s glittering West End.

    It’s barely good enough for $40 a plate dinner theatre in the Catskills but that’s where the core audience lies.

    You’d think any MD worth his salt would persuade the old dear to ratchet some of the old standards down a couple of keys (or six) to give her voice a chance of hitting at least some notes … but she did seem to end every number with an ascent into the coloratura rafters after jamming the mike so far down her throat to catch the wisps of sound in the less fortissimo passages as to be almost fellatic.

    Ms. Lansbury, Ms. Stritch, Ms. Cook are all eight to ten years Jones’s senior, and demonstrate that there are vocal careers to be maintained after 80. If your voice holds up, but sadly Shirley yours has taken early retirement.

    Follow it.

    • JohnnyFox Says:

      The Judy Garland joke had gone by tonight also.

      Patrick Cassidy made a big thing of his appearing with Mom in 42nd Street being a landmark in that it was the first time a mother and son had starred in the same show – but didn’t Larry Hagman appear with Mary Martin in South Pacific at Drury Lane in 1951, although perhaps Hagman didn’t then count as a star?

  14. Jay Bee Says:

    Yes,Friday night’s show could hardly have started worse…three attempts to roll the film showreel were unsuccessful,then ,when Shirley appeared,the on-stage monitors gave trouble. This seemed to throw her and resulted in an appalling rendition of “Tonight”.Jones-lovers all,we applauded but surely aghast at what we’d just heard. But then,after 2 songs, the sound problems were sorted,and Shirley warmed to her task.The singing got better (it couldn’t have got worse),her “Send in the Clowns” was fine ,and,by the end of the show,the small audience (it was about a third full)showed appreciation for a legend doing her best. Oh,and Patrick Cassidy was fine,full of ebullience and self-belief. Though one had to grit one’s teeth during that song about brother David.All in all,a charming -if somewhat bizarre – cabaret evening.The run has been curtailed,perhaps prompted by a combination of the medical problem and reviews such as that of the Whingers.


    • “Medical problem” my foot.

      Sorry, but its disingenuous to blame anyone’s review of this for its early closing. It was bad (and expensive, a sure-fire killer combination) – thats why its closing, not because people have reviewed it honestly. “Love Never Dies” has had extremely poor reviews, but that’s still blighting the West End with its presence.

      • jaybee Says:

        Exit,that’s fair comment. Indeed,I went to the show despite having read the Whingers’ (excellent) review.But ,generally,reviews tend to serve as a recommendation(or otherwise)and thus,despite the example you gave,can affect the box office.
        Oh,and I inadvertently forgot to use inverted commas around “Medical Problem “.
        Oddly,the show will affectionately remain in my memory even after other perfect/ slick shows have been forgotten!

  15. People in glass houses.... Says:

    I went to see SJ tonight 28th March. Wow what a star she is. She started with ‘If I loved you’ which was so moving. How nice it is to see someone who has real talent. I had the pleasure of a meet and greet at the end of the show tonight and there was no airs and graces with this Oscar winner. How many singers at 76 yr olds do you know who are still fit and flexible and able to belt out a song….? Of course she needed to have intervals and her son doing a few songs here and there was fine by me. I thought Shirley had a great depth and range to her voice esp when it was just Shirley and the piano. I enjoyed it and my niece..who is into Elbow…also enjoyed it. Thanks Shirley we had a great night.

  16. Nicky Says:

    I have never had such a good laugh in ages. I have been crying with laughter for much of this afternoon after reading certain reviewer’s comments. Totally priceless! Somehow, I feel the Shirley Jones concert will turn out to be a highlight of my theatre going year. Thank you!

  17. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    Oh, and another flaw in “People in Glass Houses” argument is that “If I Loved You” is actually a duet so she couldnt have “started” the concert with it because that vile son of hers wouldnt have been on stage to have “sung” it with her.

  18. Richard W Says:

    Dear Exit pursued by a Smell …..

    If you had half a brain , you would see that “People in Glass Houses” message was posted on Sunday 28 March 2010 at 12:41 am (thats Sunday morning to you, ducky) , which means he/she made a simple mistake and had clearly been at the show on Saturday night.
    What a nasty , bitter old queen you are. Whats it like to live in a world of lisping cynicism ? Give people a break.


  19. OK, Stop being nasty to each other. The last time this happened it all got out of hand, Andrew Haydon called someone a c*** and the whole thread had to be deleted.

    Be nasty to us but not to each other.

    • Richard W Says:

      Sorry Andrew. I don’t normally get involved in this kind of online squabbling but certain people should be challenged.
      ‘Exit’ probably deserves sympathy rather than rebuke as he seems a very over-excitable individual (as in : alone !!) which is usually a symptom of something more serious.
      His delight in Shirley Jones downfall is totally pathetic but his sneering drove me to react.

  20. Exit, Pursued by a Bear Says:

    “I went to see SJ tonight 28th March”. If so, why not put “I went to see SJ tonight 27 March”?

    I still don’t see how someone managed to sing a duet with themself. Particularly as this particular number wasnt sung on any other night.

    Give people a break? Sure – where’s Patrick Cassidy’s neck? We’ll make sure that Shirley gets your thanks – as she flies home.

    • jaybee Says:

      When I went (Friday),”If I Loved You” was the second number of the night and sung before Patrick came on.It may have been a duet in the film but not at the Arts Theatre.

    • Richard W Says:

      Its sad that you get such delight from Shirley Jones early departure. I wonder what discernable talent you possess? I would guess very little which perhaps explains your joy at her demise . It doesn’t explain , however , your towering arrogance .
      And before you ask your usual predictable and boring question ……..
      I do not work for / am not connected to / have never met any of the Cassidys or Shirley Jones.
      Shirley Jones starred in several classic movies , has an Oscar and is much loved by lots of people worldwide. For this I believe she deserves some respect. Which seems too much to ask from a sneering cretin like you.

    • RichardW Says:

      Its sad that you get such delight from Shirley Jones early departure. I wonder what discernable talent you possess? I would guess very little which perhaps explains your joy at her demise . It doesn’t explain , however , your towering arrogance .
      And before you ask your usual predictable and boring question ……..
      I do not work for / am not connected to / have never met any of the Cassidys or Shirley Jones.
      Shirley Jones starred in several classic movies , has an Oscar and is much loved by lots of people worldwide. For this I believe she deserves some respect. Which seems too much to ask from a sneering cretin like you.

  21. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    If you lot don’t stop squabbling, I’ll write another musical.

    • Exit, pursued by a Bear Says:

      Or even have the arrogance to believe that you can improve on a masterpiece and rewrite the songs from “The Wizard of Oz”(currently being advertised at prime time every saturday night for the next X weeks on BBC1)?


  22. Ohh, Lord. Right. I’m locking this thread.


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