Debbie Reynolds December 10, 2006
By Glen Creason
In concert is not a term Debbie Reynolds would use for one of her performances; she is far too folksy for such high-falutin’ lingo. Concert, stand-up routine, impressionist performance, variety show, musical review, or mixed media presentation might fill the bill if you combined them all into one. You can’t really call this legendary lady a performer or singer because she seems beyond those earth-bound terms. Debbie Reynolds, at the self-confessed age of seventy-four is more like a force of nature. It’s not that she shows that much age in her flawless makeup, expensive gowns and boundless charm and wry humor. Yet her show at a Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts was all about history and the years that have added so much to her charismatic career in front of the footlights. The hair is strawberry blonde, the figure somewhat hourglass and the cheeks are youthfully rosy but this is show business and father time has no place on a stage with Miss Debbie. A pair of spectacular gowns in sequined aquamarine and yuletide red probably cost more than most customers’ annual salaries but the former Mary Francis from Burbank still connects with we the people. When she said that Cerritos was “the nicest theater I’ve ever played in” you could hear buttons busting all over the hall.
This is a lady who seems to thrive on the attention and spotlight but she never gives the audience the impression that she is a diva or prima donna. In fact her tame versions of classic songs like “Good to Be Here,” “That’s Life,” “From This Moment On,” “Love Is a Tender Trap,” “I Love a Piano,” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” “Come Away With Me,” “Grandpa” and even a C&W medley simply serve as bridges between her marvelous stories and hilarious impressions. The jokes were straight out of the Catskill comedian’s playbook but in her mouth they worked beautifully. She told Eddie Fisher stories some half century since she jettisoned the singer and got good laughs. She did routines about her encounters with Dolly Parton and Willy Nelson while also breaking the place up with the broad comedy in perfect impressions of ZaZa Gabor and Barbra Streisand that would have done a new comedian proud.
Still, this is Debbie Reynolds who can casually mention working with James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy and hanging out with her dear pal Judy Garland. Twice she brought a house movie screen to life with highlights of her long career and a fascinating montage of bloopers featuring her friends in show biz back in the day. Her perspective of Hollywood in the golden years is worth the show on its own but she had more for the big crowd at Cerritos. Even as she joked and regaled with humor she was still capable of holding the place in the palm of her hand. This she did in a cozy little medley drawn from Judy Garland’s treasure chest and a sweet bit of nostalgia called “Tammy” which left the dreamy audience happy and standing in ovation for many minutes after.