Those who get a kick out of showbiz tales and inspirational personal stories will find Cloris Leachman’s one-woman show heartfelt, fascinating and funny.
Set within a homey living room stage with a cushy sofa, piles of pillows, potted plants and a grand piano, Leachman will regale audiences about the hilarious events, personal secrets and intimate relationships of her life and career in “Cloris! A One-Woman Show.”
There is so much to note about the career of Cloris Leachman: There’s her Oscar for “The Last Picture Show,” her stellar turn as Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” and the indefatigably self-absorbed Phyllis Lindstrom of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” And, more recently, there’s her ratings-reaping romp through TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
You’ll hear all about those career watermarks and a lot more in “Cloris: A One-Woman Show”.
When the veteran performer sits down at the grand piano to knock off a bit of “Rhapsody in Blue” or Chopin’s “Minute Waltz,” check out the footwear peeking out from the folds of her flowing, marble-patterned gown
It’s an interview without a questioner as she recalls her Iowa childhood, when she decided she never wanted to be one of the “gray people” she encountered in downtown Des Moines on her way to a piano lesson. She spoofs getting older, with a faux videotaped “commercial” for estate planning, co-starring her former husband, George Englund, and some of her one-liners about mortality are, in truth, kind of morbid. The word “cremation,” she quips, “makes it sound like you’re going to wind up a nondairy coffee additive.”
But, again, at eighty f- four, she’s entitled, and it’s through a canny mix of melancholy and mirth that Leachman holds us spellbound through her show. She talks about incurring the considerable wrath of Katharine Hepburn during a Broadway production of “As You Like It” by missing an entrance. But a few minutes later, she’s in the presence of Hepburn only three weeks before the latter’s death. The great star seems unaware of anyone around her, until Leachman mentions Hepburn’s brother, Dick, who had been the stage manager for the Shakespeare production. From Hepburn, a brief flicker of awareness. It’s a touching moment.
There are other showbiz stories, such as her successful audition for Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to play Nellie Forbush as a replacement during “South Pacific’s” original Broadway run, and how she landed the role of Phyllis without reading a line, by planting herself on the lap of series co-creator James L. Brooks, who’d previously thought her too much of a dramatic actress to do a sitcom.
But she also tells personal stories. Some of them are rather dear – she talks about being a great-grandmother and her continuing bond with her ex-husband. And some of them, like the mention of the death of her son, Bryan, from a drug overdose in 1986, are rather sad.
There’s a lot of theater in Leachman’s show, but a lot of real life, as well. Here’s to eighty f- five. And counting.