By: David Sheward
At the end of his sleek and entertaining one-man show at Roundabout Theatre Company’s intimate Laura Pels space, Jim Dale sings "I’ve done it all," and i
ndeed he has. In 90 dazzling minutes, the Tony-winning British performer recounts his unique career from music-hall comic to teen pop crooner to Oscar-nominated songwriter (the lyrics for "Georgy Girl") to stage star of Broadway and the West End to the voice of the Harry Potter audio books. Directed with verve by Richard Maltby Jr. and accompanied with style by Mark York, Just Jim Dale is a fizzy, funny, and fine recap of a versatile life in this business we call show.
Still spry at 78, Dale articulates his limbs like rubber bands and manipulates his features into any number of comic masks. He can convincingly transform into a younger version of himself delivering the pratfall that got him cast in a touring revue featuring kid comedians, as well as merrily leading the audience in a nonsensical hit tune he wrote called "Dick-A-Dum-Dum." There are the expected excerpts from his Broadway shows, including numbers from Me and My Girl (he was taken to see the original version when he was a child and the show convinced him to become a performer) and Barnum. In the latter, after delivering them at full speed, he slows down the rapid-fire patter songs so that Mike Stewart’s intricate lyrics can be understood.
Dale also displays his nonmusical talents with a fiery performance of the climactic monologue from Noël Coward’s Fumed Oak in which the henpecked hero raises up against the tyrannous, respectable females in his family to declare his independence. We also get the opening speech from Peter Nichols’s Joe Egg, featuring Dale as a besieged high-school teacher, the audience cast as his unruly class.
But the real highlights of the show take place between the numbers. These are Dale’s sparkling backstage anecdotes, ancient but still-funny music-hall gags, and stories from friends in the biz. My favorites include a re-creation of his first day recording the Harry Potter books, the saga of getting the title song for "Georgy Girl" approved by two mysterious gangster-types associated with the film’s director, and a joke set in a hospital provided by Dale’s pal, actor Frank Langella. Oh, and did I mention the star is magnificent at impressions? He slips into Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier with ease. There’s also an unexpected set piece listing all the words and phrases Shakespeare invented, which is almost as long and varied as Dale’s life on the stage. We’re so lucky he’s sharing it with us.
June 3-Aug. 10. Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 W. 46th St., NYC. Tue 7:30pm, Wed 2pm & 7:30pm, Thu-Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 7:30pm, Sun 2pm. Running time 90 minutes, no intermission. $79. www.roundabouttheatre.org
Photo: Joan Marcus
Originally Published on June 8, 2014 in ArtsinNY.com