note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
Despite threat of heavy rains, 1,100 came by car and busload last Sunday to the Reagle Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham. They attended the Boston-area premiere of incomparable Mitzi Gaynor’s one-woman national touring show, “Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind the Sequins”.
Although Gaynor is 80 years old and her gait’s less bouncy, she looks fantastic, dressed in glittery, colorful gowns and pantsuits designed by Bob Mackie, bathed in Tony Charmoli’s lighting. She isn’t dancing much anymore, but her voice, accompanied by a fantastic seven-piece band onstage, reverberates throughout the large theater, as she belts out some of her biggest hits.
From her entrance on stage in her signature sailor suit (from her role as Nellie Forbush in the 1958 movie, “South Pacific,”) Gaynor proved to be the consummate veteran entertainer. She later burst into a medley of “South Pacific” tunes, including “HoneyBun,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” “Cockeyed Optimist,” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy”.
As crowd-pleasers, she made cracks at late-comers and eye contact with theatergoers throughout her nostalgic patter.
Frequently poking fun at herself, then and now, she performed routines that made her famous throughout the decades, especially on her Emmy Award-winning TV shows and Las Vegas revues. She credited her agent-husband, Jack Bean, for making her into Mitzi Gaynor, from the time they met and married, throughout their 52-year love story. He died in 2006, leaving her alone, she says tearily. Gaynor has no children.
Gaynor may not strut, stride, twirl, tap dance, or kick high anymore, but movie and news footage of past appearances and performances on a huge background wall enhance her dazzling costumes and sparkling personality. “Everything Old is New Again,” she sings - and proves.
She makes no excuses, either, showing off her legs in her high-slit gowns. When she tries to shinny and climb up on Music Director Ed Czach’s piano, she lands pancake-style, then smiles exultantly when she’s seated upright. Dressed in a stunning glittery black sheath gown, she affixes two tassels on her chest, comically twirling them.
Her running commentary provides insight into her past, which reads like a who’s-who of Hollywood legends. When she was 18, Howard Hughes was her lover and Ethel Merman her co-star in the movie, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. One day, Merman called “Mitzala” (Merman’s pet name for Hungarian Catholic Gaynor) and invited her to chic club El Morocco to meet the Windsors - the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, of course.
Her career in movies was short-lived, but it didn’t stop this indomitable, effervescent daughter of a cellist and dancer. With Bean’s loving guidance, Gaynor’s career soared for decades. She’s going it alone now, “Taking a Chance on Me (Love),” in her final number, garnering renewed admiration.