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NY Theater Reviews

Debbie Reynolds with pianist Joey Singer

STILL KOOKY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

By ROBERT L. DANIELS

 Debbie Reynolds makes her Cafe Carlyle debut a pleasant way to spend some quality time with a silver screen legend.

Over a half-century has passed since a teen-aged Debbie Reynolds leaped over sofas and popped out of a cake in the classic MGM tuner Singing in the Rain  Now at age seventy-seven the former  film star is  celebrating her Cafe Carlyle cabaret debut at the posh Gotham hotel.  Still perky and winsome after all these years, Reynolds is eager to work the vaudeville circuit as long as George Burns did and has been quoted as saying, "then they can stuff me like Trigger!"

Reynolds, who is accustomed to performing in arenas and two-thousand seat theaters opened to a capacity audience of under a hundred and expressed surprise at the intimacy of the venue. However, she is a trooper of the old school and did her gags, skits and songs with impish abandon, while sharing tales of Tinseltown and name dropping her Hollywood pals, Ava, Lana and June. 

"You probably think I'm Connie Stevens, but I'm actually Princess Lea's mother," she quipped, acknowledging her author and acting daughter, Carrie Fisher   Reynolds rather rushes her way through a catalog of career highlights with bits of songs:"The Tender Trap,"  "I Ain't Down Yet" from The Unsinkable Molly Brown, (in the title role that garnered her an Oscar nom), and "I Wanna Be Loved By You" from Three Little Words in which she played the role of Helen Kane.  Oddly enough, she failed to mention that veteran vaudevillian Kane, the original "Boop boop a doop" girl, was still alive at the time and it was her own voice that was used while Reynolds lip-synced the tune.

When Reynolds appeared at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, nine years ago, her co-star from Two Weeks With Love,  Carlton Carpenter, popped up from out of the audience and joined in a duet of "Abba Dabba Honeymoon." Reynolds offered a snippet of the fanciful tune for Carlyle patrons.

Reynolds skirts the stage for a costume change midway, and returns with a spot-on imitation of Barbra Streisand, complete with wig and false nose. The turn goes on a bit too long, as did a Judy Garland medley that called for a stronger set of pipes than Reynolds could summon and deliver.

She also adds a tasteless account of three failed marriages, the loss of millions of dollars by a reckless gambling mate, quipping, "I should have married Burt Reynolds. I wouldn't have had to change my name and I could have borrowed his wig!"

Reynolds winds up with her only hit song, the folksy and plaintive "Tammy" from Tammy and the Bachelor." The years roll by comfortably while spending an hour in her company. There are but a handful of silver screen legends remaining and Debbie Reynolds is one to treasure.   Her cabaret turn runs through June 27.