Broadway grande dame Zoe Caldwell --- you get to be a grande dame when you;ve won four Tony Awards --- stopped by the Huntington Theatre for a fundraiserlast week. (She'll be back in June to accept the Eliot Norton Award). "Come A-Waltzing With Me" is Caldwell's one-woman evening (with piano accompanist Carl Danielson) of reminiscences about famous friends, life experiences, and her most famlous roles --- Maria Callas, Cleopatra, Miss Jean Brodie, to name a few. Caldwell hails from Australia, hence the evening's title, and an elegant rendition of the Banjo Patterson song ended the performance.
In between snippets of Miss Jean and Medea, Caldwell entertained us with "Lessons in Humility": her own original odes to life's little curiosities, including recalcitrant squirrels, wise family doctors and woeful whale songs. This "doggerel" as she calls it owes its meter and cheek to Noel Coward, and one song she wrote happily plays like Gilbert & Sullivan. She sparkled in some Dory Previn songs about loneliness (written when Mia Farrow spirited away Previn's husband Andre) and she revealed her secret for a long and successful career in the theater: "I always honor the punctuation."
A vision in a flowing white gown of a thousand tiny Fortuny pleats, she regaled us with stories about being a simple "Westchester housewife". Her larger than life delivery of a children's story she used to tell her two boys made us wonder how they ever survived their childhood sharing a home with such a formidable woman. As the Shakespearean scholar and irrepressible wag Paul Eiseman would say, "A little Zoe goes a long way."