Lane Bradbury

June 13, 2017 | By | Add a Comment

The title of Lane Bradbury’s Don’t Tell Mama show, Let Me Entertain You Again, suggests that the singer-dancer-actor will be dealing largely with her participation in Broadway’s legendary 1959 premiere of the musical Gypsy. That proves to be the case, and for good reason. Bradbury was a girl of 16 when she took on the role of Dainty June—the younger sister of future star stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and the daughter of “Madame” Rose (Havick), the unrivaled stage mother portrayed in the show by Ethel Merman. For anyone who agrees that Gypsy is among the most important titles in American musical-theatre history, just hearing Bradbury relate stories about such collaborators as the intimidating Merman and fearsome director Jerome Robbins would be worth the price of admission. But Let Me Entertain You Again is more than just a memoir about a landmark musical. It’s a well-told tale of a vulnerable, troubled girl who left her life as a horse-crazy Atlantan, lived through an intense on-again, off-again teenage romance, and found a purpose in life when she began studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, then in its celebrated heyday. She would go on to have a career in film and television, but she eventually stepped out of the limelight. A few years ago, after seeing a performance of Next to Normal, she decided to come out of retirement, which led to this cabaret show.

Bradbury’s remembrances have been arranged in an appealingly structured script by Doug DeVita that weaves in a string of smartly chosen songs—standards as well as special material. Directing the show is Bradbury’s daughter, Elkin Antoniou. Musical director is Joe Goodrich, who not only serves ably at the keyboard, but also pinch-hits as a vocalist, taking on the role of Louise (aka “Gypsy”) in a crowd-pleasing rendition of the Gypsy duet “If Momma Was Married” (Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim).

Early on, we learn about young Bradbury’s unease with the social whirl of Atlanta’s “debutante” scene—illustrated with a pairing of Stephen Schwartz’s “Corner of the Sky” and a parody of Lerner and Loewe’s “Ascot Gavotte” from My Fair Lady (with lyrics by Elkin). We’re introduced to young Lane’s beau, Eddie, and given a taste of mid-1950s teenage pop music with the old Teen Queens hit “Eddie My Love” (Maxwell Davis, Aaron Collins, Sam Ling). And we get a new twist on Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People,” which is used to mark Bradbury’s decision about whether to go to college (a tempting option as she would have been allowed to bring along her beloved horse) or move to Manhattan to pursue a life as a serious artist. (She chose New York.) Customarily, the Company favorite is performed as an exploration of the chaotic, frustrating swirl of Manhattan life, but here Bradbury turns it into a celebration. By the end of the song she seems delighted by those hundreds of people arriving in the city every day—and she’s especially delighted to actually be one of them.

Over the half-century-plus since she appeared in Gypsy, the onetime June has remained Dainty. Bradbury retains a buoyantly youthful, sprite-like quality that is winning and dear. She has an engaging smile, sweeping, elegant gestures, and an agile, multifaceted voice, rooted in an assured Broadway-belt sound that suggests she learned a thing or two working with the booming Merman all those years ago (even if the star treated the newcomer rather shabbily at the time). True, there were moments at the June 6 performance when she seemed a little hesitant. These tended to occur in transitions between beats and when she executed certain dance moves on the relatively small stage. But I believe this is just a matter of polishing those moments and growing more comfortable with the venue. I found her to be a joy throughout the show. Her Strasberg training lends her song interpretations a depth that keeps you watching her face every second.

The figures of Eddie, Strasberg, Merman, and the dreaded Robbins dominate the story she tells, but she also gives us glimpses of other notable people from the era, including Paul Newman and Marilyn Monroe. It would have been fascinating to hear bit more about them, as well as something about the young Sondheim and the real-life June Havoc (After Gypsy, Bradbury would play on Broadway in Marathon 33, which Havoc both wrote and directed). But it was wise of her and writer DeVita, I think, not to overcrowd the landscape of memories. Perhaps she will elaborate on these and other people in a subsequent show. I sincerely hope this outing won’t be a one-off engagement, as this talented performer could, if she so desired, become a valued presence in the New York cabaret community.

Let Me Entertain You Again
Don’t Tell Mama  –  June 7, 29

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. His features and reviews have appeared in such publications as American Theatre and Back Stage and on BistroAwards.com. As a dramaturg he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. His stage adaptation of Henry James's novel The Tragic Muse was part of the Gilded Stage Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse in January 2014.

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