Two awards: The first for most original shut-your-cell-phone-off warning and the second for outstanding stamina and longevity in the grand manner of British Music Hall entertainment go to Jim Smith aka Jim Dale – singer, songwriter (lyric for “Georgy Girl”) – Shakespearean actor, Broadway star (Barnum, Scapino) limerick man and all around raconteur who was born with show business DNA and hungry, make that famished, to escape the confines of a suffocating life in a shoe factory to go on and on and on entertaining audiences every charming tap step, song and joke along the way.
Jim Dale learned some of these jokes and dance steps back then at the age of seventeen. He is now a ripe seventy nine and you would never know the difference. Lithe and limber still, he is strutting his life across the stage of The Laura Pels Theatre in JUST JIM DALE – a musical memoir of his life thus far. He isn’t the least bit tired. Some of his material is.
However, Mr. Dale obviously loves to entertain his audience. He is on stage with just a grand piano played to perfection by Mark York for almost two hours – no intermission – sipping once in a while from a small cup – never once out of breath as he jogs through his most memorable achievements as a performer. And reader of the Harry Potter audio series with a slew of voices to match the slew of characters created by J. K. Rowling.
Mr. Dale has written this show and my one quibble is that it could be a bit shorter – perhaps by ten minutes. Some tales, as charming and interesting as they are, begin to repeat themselves in words and actions. That being said, I think you will have a most enjoyable time in the company of Jim Dale.
As directed by Richard Maltby, Jr. JUST JIM DALE is a time capsule of a performing style of a bygone era by a man who originated these many numbers and is still able to perform them magnificently.
In the blink of an eye he is performing “The Lambeth Walk” – from Me and My Girl (1937) then he is Barnum – singing a tongue twister of a song a la Danny Kaye – then a monologue of Shakespearean quotes in the style of Victor Borge that is brilliant and then a tidbit from Noel Coward as a hen-pecked husband escaping from his nagging wife and daughter and then an audience participation excerpt from JOE EGG. It’s a master class of how to go from getting titters, to giggles, to guffaws and then applause.
Some jokes are groaners – but Mr. Dale delivers them with perfect comic timing that make them seem fresh and not merely recycled. Jim Dale loves his audience and his audience loves him in return in this easy going stroll down memory lane in JUST JIM DALE – a revival of his life in the biz called show.
Limited run through August 10th. A Roundabout production.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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