Debbie Reynolds Live

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

22/08/2006 - 22/08/2006

Production Details

Musical Director Joey Singer

Known as the First Lady of Hollywood, the ‘unsinkable’ Debbie Reynolds will perform in two [actually one – ed.] very special concert evenings in New Zealand in August.

Born Mary Frances Reynolds on April Fools’ Day 1932, the former Miss Burbank has become one of Hollywood’s most celebrated and enduring actresses. She has appeared in more than 50 movies, two Broadway shows, and dozens of television series including her most recent stint with Will and Grace in which she played the recurring role of Grace’s mother.

Her career-defining role in Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor – a film considered to be one of the best motion picture musicals of all time – shot her from starlet to star. Although Gene Kelly, a tough disciplinarian, caused her to remark recently, “Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life!”

But mention the name Debbie Reynolds and most people think of Tammy, from the eponymous film series, which has become her personal theme song. It attained the position of Number One on the American Billboard charts for weeks and went on to gross millions – an impressive record considering it was the era of rock & roll and Elvis!

She has been nominated for numerous awards, including an Academy Award (for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1965), a Golden Globe in both television and motion picture categories, and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award. She was also nominated for a Tony Award for Woman of the Year. In 1997 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy from the American Comedy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her latest nomination is for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award which will be presented at the 2007 Oscars.

The mother of two including Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars) and a grandmother, Debbie is a hit among children, too. She was the voice of Charlotte in the beloved story of Charlotte’s Web. She also worked on the Rugrats television and film series and, more recently, Halloweentown.

After a tumultuous life both on and off the stage, Debbie has no plans to slow down, let alone retire. She tours an average forty-two weeks a year with her show which blends laughter, song and dance receiving rave reviews and accolades for her unrivalled zest for life. For this New Zealand tour Debbie will be joined by her Musical Director, Joey Singer, and his showband.

Performed by Debbie Reynolds

Joey Singer's showband.

Music , Theatre , Dance-theatre ,

Timeless treat – and did we care?

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 23rd Aug 2006

Debbie Reynolds. She is one of the originals. If I have half the energy she does when I hit 74, I’ll be a happy soul. She sang, danced and entertained us with the enthusiasm and wit that defied her age, proving to all, that she’s very much "still got it."

How strange it was that I left feeling so alive and refreshed, yet I’d just spent 90 minutes with the oldest performer I had ever watched in a live show. She was like a breath of fresh air. And how nice it was to be home from a great night out, at the civil hour of 930pm… I could get used to these 730pm starts. They make more and more sense the older I get.

Promptly at 7.30pm, the lights dimmed and the usual cell phone and videotaping message came over the intercom… I started tuning out, till the voice ended with… "But Debbie says too HECK with that – take as many pictures as you want".

The curtain rose and the band played: there was a grand piano on the left and a drum kit mounted ostentatiously on the right, and the rest of the band… sadly, was there in audio spirit only. Oh to have been at one of Debbie’s shows in her heyday, when a full live band would have opened the show.

Still, when Debbie entered, resplendent in shimmery gold from head to toe – she even had a gold microphone – her personality filled the entire room. Glitzy glamorous Debbie Reynolds. Marvellous. Straight into song, she wasted no time stamping her mark on the night, and although the top notes where nowhere to be found, it simply didn’t matter … 

I was sitting just along from Hot Pink poet Penny Ashton and just in front of staunch comedian Mike King, who took his mum… but for the most part, an older, gentler crowd had of course come to pay homage to this great lady.

Her pianist and Musical Director, Jerry Singer, is a gem. Not once did he take his eyes off his lead lady, and he was right there for every ad-lib, every offer thrown his way.

My hairdresser Karl, his partner Paul and his mother Daphne, were in the centre of the front row – I know this because Debbie introduced them to us. Having spotted them early on, she engaged in a wee chat, deciding two young men, eager to sit so close to the stage, would be good material.

And it was that witty banter between songs that I found most enjoyable, as vocally things didn’t improve: the top end of the range has definitely left the building. But it still didn’t matter – and anyway – her ‘band’, ended every song with such a flurry and fuss, the voice was a mere fill in amongst the bombastic final chord. I mean that in a kind way. It’s the Hollywood way. Play to your strengths. Though regardless, Debbie still commits to every note – at one point enquiring – "Did I spit on you, Daphne?"

She’s full of quips and one liners: ("Paris Hilton – finally a family member who made it on her own two knees" … and later: "I’ve been in show biz 59 years and I’m only 52." Each delivered with immaculate timing and polished off with the compulsory tag from Gerry on drums…

She told jokes about her self, and gave us an insight into her Hollywood heyday, and life behind the scenes… she shared her stories, her life, and her career, all in such a way that made us feel free to laugh with her. Plus she somehow brought glamour to everything.

She showed us some fabulous movie clips: A show reel of her first films… with footage from her greats such as ‘Singing in the Rain’. Oh it was all so GRAND.

Later, as she nipped off for a quick costume change, we saw a bloopers tape including a reoccurring shot of Ronald Regan having a wardrobe malfunction with his zip and belt…. straight after which Debbie returned to the lime light, this time in a sparkly blue dress from head to toe… commenting that presidents have had ongoing problems with their zippers…

Musically, there were wonderful memories for her generation – her tribute to the 40’s with familiar tunes by Duke Ellington, Glen Miller and others, was a crowd favourite, as was her tribute to Judy Garland’s hits. And blow me down… she danced! Nice cameo from another Jerry, who wasn’t quite Fred Astaire, but was charming. Grace and poise are still very much Debbie’s friends.

She threw in some impersonations including Marlene Dietrich and Betty Davis, and even rapped… Oh my lord – she touched herself down there… well, mimed it.

And of course she promised ‘Tammy’ – saving it till last. Though in the middle of her introduction – someone in the audience jumped up yelling "there’s a Tammy here, right here in the audience she’s here, here Debbie here"… oh god… then someone behind Paul, Karl and Daphne wanted to give Debbie a card … an enthusiastic fan who started a tale involving a flash that didn’t work … it was a long stor y… I was so embarrassed.  "Shuddup and let the first lady of Hollywood sing for Christ sake!" I felt like yelling.

Debbie had it all in hand though, as she gracefully retreated to the piano to allow the excited folks to regain their composure. Then with drums and piano in full force, she reclaimed centre stage and sang ‘Tammy’.

How sad that this extraordinary woman played to only a 50% house, after selling out in six Australian cities.

Perhaps we Kiwis thought she’d be predictable and schmaltzy? Hell no! She’s witty, naughty, and very entertaining. My generation laughed just as much as Debbie’s fans, proving that while much of the evening was built on nostalgia, watching a true professional, with funny material, is a timeless treat.

Debbie was to have done Wellington this Saturday, but lacklustre bookings and strong demand in Sydney for a 3rd show (she sold out there on 10 & 11 August) means Debbie will be doing the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall again instead, on 26 August.


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