Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
An Evening with Danny Kaye
The talented Childers first took on the role of Danny Kayeactor, singer, dancer, raconteur, comedian, humanitarian, and too many other things to mentionfor the Arlington, Virginia, company in 2001 in a two-character musical about Kaye and his wife and collaborator, Sylvia Fine. He received a Helen Hayes Award for Danny and Sylvia: A Musical Love Story and led it through a years-long Off-Broadway run. This new show, a recreation of Kaye's live stage performances, closes the circle by returning to the theater where it all began.
While Kaye died in 1987, his heart and anarchic humor are eternal. Childers and his director, Stephen Nachamie, have structured the performance as Kaye's 100th-birthday celebration (he always claimed 1913 as his birth year, although other records say 1911), allowing the star and pianist-musical director Jeffrey Biering to present highlights from throughout Kaye's career.
Here is Kaye with the fluttering hands and fey giggle, flirting lightly with women in the audience, recounting his breakthrough performance in the 1941 musical Lady in the Dark with the highly competitive Gertrude Lawrence. (Childers sings excerpts from some of her songs as well as Kaye's tongue-twisting solo, "Tchaikovsky.") Here are "Anatole of Paris" and "The Lobby Number," two of Fine's specialty numbers that Kaye performed in movies. Here's a medley from the movie Hans Christian Andersen and a performance of "White Christmas" that nods to Bing Crosby, his co-star in the movie of that title. And here's Kaye teaching the audience a few nonsense syllables, then inviting everyone to join in.
It may not be profound, but it is thoroughly entertaining. And if watching Brian Childers as he sums up Kaye's philosophy"Life is a great big canvas. Throw all the paint you can at it"inspires people to seek out Danny Kaye's movies, this show will have done its job of keeping the man's unique talent alive.
American Century Theater