Not Sondheim but important... Bea Arthur at the Savoy

I had been warned off this show by people who had seen it saying that it was contrived and she came across better on the album of the show. But there were two things that struck me about this.

First was that these days contrived is all that is on the West End. The most enjoyable things I have seen have been Fringe performances.
The second point was this since today was my birthday I wanted to celebrate I with something a touch sophistimicated... Especially since my favourite frivol Ute Lemper was about to play in Brisbane while I wasn't there!

Bea Arthur's show was a real treat. It was a bit of a running joke between Skye and I as we started to see the posters go up around town for her show that it was one show that I wasn't going to drag her to. This week she decided to surprise me and book tickets to it for tonight, but that didn't quite go to plan. Instead I offered to get them Saturday morning from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square... Very smart and sensible move as not only were they half price, they were fifth row centre.

The downside to being so close was that you got to see how old she really looked. After my initial recoil of horror (and it was horror, she looked like hell) that she resembled only vaguely the airbrushed-vaseline-coated images in her publicity, we got into the show.

Ah but there is another thing before I should proceed. Skye had a moment of horror when we walked into the fabulous foyer of the Savoy. No it wasn't the Art Decco pannelling that got her, it was the fact she felt she was the only woman. It turns out Bea has two audience types: Elderly couples and queeny gay men. It was like walking into a bar with all these beady queeny eyes in Versace prints fixed on you.

Still we both managed to nervously laugh at the scene and make our way to our fabulous seats.

Anyway as the show progressed it was like being in Bea's lounge room. She sang she talked, she wore no shoes. It was all tightly scripted and contrived and never once was sincere. Except perhaps when she talked about Tony Curtis returning to their acting school whispering loudly to them (while they were in class), "I just fucked my first movie star." There was a pause. "Oh we were just so thrilled for him" was her dry reply.

I guess nowadays we expect our one women shows to be more soul-searching and heart aching. Bea didn't go there (except for hinting about divorce and lost loves and liberal causes). But as the show progressed I was kinda glad she didn't. From the snippets of her life she gave and the quips that accompanied them, I got the impression she could be a real nasty piece of work. Great entertainer, but one sure-fire bitch... I was happy for her to keep it bright and breezy and to supress her personality. And hey, that should be enough.

At the urinals during interval, an American guy quipped "hey I could get up on stage and tell anecdotes". He could probably sing in a gravelly voice too... But it was the way it was delivered, the skill and craftmanship of an old pro that made it a night.

One particular ditty Bea sang she interrupted during the laughs, "its not Sondheim but its important". It summed up the show for me.

That turned out to be my weekend birthday. The rest was spent looking after a sore head... Ah well... dems de brakes!

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