Regional Reviews: San Francisco
The Legendary Kitty Carlisle Hart
Also see Richard's review of Lestat
Rrazz Productions is presenting the legendary Kitty Carlisle Hart in her one person show called "In Honor of her 95th Birthday." The celebrated artist is the very face of popular American entertainment as she tells anecdotes of all of the great American composers that she knew, ranging from the era of Show Boat to My Fair Lady. There are wonderful gossip stories about such great American composers such as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. She was friends to all of these lengendary personalities of Broadway musical theatre.
Kitty Carlisle Hart captivates the audience with a mixture of personal stories and the singing of classical theatre songs of the period. Granted, Ms. Hart does not have the semi-operatic voice she had during that fabulous period, since her voice breaks at the top end of the scale. However, she can still deliver an energetic, well-balanced rendition of the songs.
The evening starts with a brief video of Ms. Hart during those halcyon days of television when she appeared as a panelist on "To Tell the Truth." Following the video clips, the great woman comes out onto the small stage accompanied by her long time pianist and musical director David Lewis. She is dressed in a stunning black sequined gown and speaks from a lectern of her extraordinary life in the theatre. Between telling tales with a little bit of mischief about some of the great Broadway composers, she sings classic show business songs such as Jerome Kern's lovely "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," George and Ira's Gershwin's "The Man I Love," Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love," and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Something Wonderful."
Kitty Carlisle Hart talks about her husband Moss Hart, who was also a Broadway legend. She says he "was a poor boy from the Bronx who went to a college he made up called Hebrew Tech." The artist tells how she pursued the great man prior to marriage and talks of auditioning for Hart for a part in Kurt Weill's Lady in the Dark ("I did not get the part but I got the man"). She sings one of my most favorite songs, "My Ship," from that show. It is a touching rendition of this beautiful song.
There are many little naughty stories about composers such as George Gershwin who had a joie de vivre and a special way to invite the ladies up to his apartment. There is a wonderful story about a poor Viennese composer who played piano in one of the pit orchestras of a Broadway show; he told Ms. Hart that someday he would write the greatest musical on Broadway. Twenty five years later this composer, whose name was Frederick Loewe, composed My Fair Lady. There is a great story about singer Rudy Vallee, who could not read music. Ms. Hart was appearing along with Mr. Vallee in a television special and they had to give the singer colored paper representing musical notes so he could sing the song properly.
Ms. Hart says she actually introduced a song in a 1934 Paramount film with Bing Crosby called "Love in Bloom." Unfortunately, the song was taken over by a certain comedian who played the violin. I love her take on growing old. She says when you are young time goes by so slowly, but as her mother said, "When you pass 50, every 15 minutes, its breakfast."
Ms. Hart turns comic when she sings William Bolcom's hilarious song about ladies at the club who discuss food for an upcoming meeting. The song, "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise," brought down the house. She also does a wonderful duet with her musical director of eleven years, David Lewis, from Lerner and Loewe's Gigi on how they first met.
A nostalgic feel is given to one of her last songs, Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson's plaintive "September Song," and it is followed up with the upbeat "Here's to Life" by Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary.
Kitty Carlisle Hart is an amazing woman who must be the oldest living female actress still performing in show business. She has only a short stay at the Empire Plush Room, Hotel York, 940 Sutter Street, San Francisco, finishing up on January 15th.
Jody Watley comes to the room January 19th through January 21, followed by Paula West, one of the Bay Area's favorite jazz artists, from January 24th through March 4th. For tickets call 866-468-3399 or visit www.EmpirePlushRoom.com.