It would be easy to crack a few gags based on the title of her “concert” Debbie Reynolds: Alive and Fabulous at the Apollo Theatre but we are too late. There is no chance of making lame jokes about the fact that the 78 year old Singing in the Rain star is still alive as Ms Reynolds is way ahead of us. She constantly refers to it, even checking her own pulse at one point.
So definitely alive then. The big question is of course, is she fabulous and if so just how much?
Well from their front row stalls seats (paid for, full price) the Whingers got ample opportunity to check this out at close range and can happily report that not only does she look quite remarkable she is indeed, well, rather fabulous.
There are very few legendary old broads left now, let alone ones still able to strut their stuff. And in the last few weeks the Whingers have been in the fortunate position to tick quite a few of them off: Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook and er, Shirley Jones. But Reynolds’ show isn’t, as perhaps feared, a motorway pile up like the last. In some ways she’s up there with the best of them – and then some.
An early jewellery malfunction (her earring dropped off) in the first few minutes saw her add-libbing with the audience (and particularly one of the Whingers’ mini-entourage) without skipping a beat which of course had them eating out of the palm of her hand. True, like some of the other old dames we’ve witnessed recently the voice isn’t what it was but what we hadn’t expected was how hilarious she is.
She talks us through her career with ample film excerpts which she doesn’t even leave the stage for to take a rest. No, she sings along to the clips and throws in gags about the filming. There’s plenty of Hollywood greats name-dropping, and that’s exactly what we wanted, but even the expected celebrity gush is nicely underscored with self deprecating gags. And she’s surprisingly bawdy.
Rap versions of “Three Little Fishes” and “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” were as funny as they were unexpected. But it was a slew of celebrity impressions, which she’s remarkably good at, that the Whingers hadn’t anticipated. It would be unfair to spoil the show by revealing who exactly she impersonates, but her final one just before the interval involved a wig and a prosthetic (and in fact the only time she ever leaves the stage) was spot on, enjoyably surreal and deliciously cruel.
This isn’t really a night for musical purists, but it’s a joyous encounter with a woman who as a performer is a ball of effervescent, restless energy determined to entertain her audience at any cost. The jokes may not all be funny but the way Debbie tells them she makes you think they are. And just in case you aren’t convinced the drummer does a “Ker Ching” kind of thing which neither Whinger can actually recall ever having been used in a real life concert before.
She’s only at the Apollo until May 9th and this may be your last chance to see her in this country, although having said that with this kind of energy nothing can be ruled out. Apparently she tours for 42 weeks of the year and she gloats in the fact that Elizabeth Taylor is three months older than her.
The Whingers make no secret of the fact that they usually eschew standing ovations (they’ve been forced to do quite enough of that recently thank you very much whilst stranded on The Broadway) but cleverly offering her hand to members of the front row there was no option but to rise, which of course rippled back through the rest of the stalls. Frankly the Whingers were quite happy to ovate and Andrew seized the opportunity to take the hand and kiss it. Not to be left out Phil followed suit. We’re not complaining. To be perfectly honest, if she’d thrown off her sparkly sling-backs we’d probably have kissed her feet.
Here she is on What’s My Line?
A four from Andrew but apparently it’s Phil’s turn to have the casting vote (again).