“I know I’m alive, but have I been fabulous…?”
Making her first UK appearances since performing at the Palladium in 1974, Debbie Reynolds arrives at the Apollo theatre after a short UK tour with her one woman show, Alive and Fabulous. Accompanied by her longtime pianist (25 years together and counting) and drummer, she revisits her long and eventful career encompassing motion pictures, television, Broadway and Vegas shows and encounters with some of the biggest and brightest names ever to grace showbusiness.
And what stories she has to tell. Ranging from her colourful marriage history, to tales of quiet days with the children round at Judy Garland’s place, the anecdotes fly at us like sequinned bullets. On more than one occasion, the anecdotes are half-told as she whips through them a tad by rote and she flits onto the next one or a song with breathtaking speed. I guess this is part of the problem in trying to make a show feel fresh when the same old stories are repeated night after night and she did have lots of fun adlibbing and interacting with the audience much to the stalls’ delight. There’s also a few impressions, a great Katharine Hepburn and a wicked Barbra Streisand were my favourites and a couple of nods to her recent small screen success as Bobbi Adler in Will and Grace.
With such a vast musical heritage to revisit, Reynolds often resorts to medleys of numbers in order to get as many songs as possible in. This is employed to brilliant effect in the first half with a montage of songs from some of her early movies played on a large flatscreen, with a spotlight on her as she sings along to her screen image. Later medleys include a Gershwin collection presaged with a lovely ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ from the piano and a show-stopping Judy Garland selection, which if nothing else proves that Debbie should be Dorothy! However, these are also slightly frustrating as it means that we don’t get more than a snippet of each of the songs, there’s a tantalising section of ‘S Wonderful that I would have liked to hear more of and approximately a 90 second clip of ‘The Man That Got Away’ that is hands down the best moment in the show and it was just heartbreaking as she quickly segued into the next number.
These were minor quibbles though in what was a splendid evening of great entertainment. Ms Reynolds is such an engaging performer and winning raconteur that I can’t imagine that anyone would have left disappointed, and indeed the rush to the front of the theatre to shake her hand as she took her bows was faster than any audience member managed at the end of Hair, despite the average age being somewhat higher!