Thursday, July 09, 2020

Booksteve Reviews: Rich Little and Suzanne Somers, April 1980

Today, I ran across the review I wrote of the Suzanne Somers/Rich Little matinee show I saw with my mother at Cincinnati’s Palace Theater in April of 1980. I was 21 years old. This was just a couple of months before my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My dad was still recovering from his accident. This was the last event she and I attended together, just the two of us. When I got home, I wrote the following review. There was no Internet then so it’s remained unpublished until now, 40 years and nearly three months later. Here’s what I wrote:

The show began promptly at three, with the announcement coming from large speakers on each side of the stage. Out from the wings, attired all in silver, came Suzanne Somers. During the course of her act, she sang many songs including a Ted Lewis song, a slow dance number, and a medley of TV themes including THE JEFFERSONS, GOOD TIMES, ONE DAY AT A TIME, CHICO & THE MAN, MAUDE, ALL IN THE FAMILY, and, of course, she ended with parts of the THREE’S COMPANY theme. “They’re playing my song!”
Joined by two male singer/dancers for much of the show, she sang a tribute to Chrissy, her TV character, dressed in a pink Chrissy blouse and with the side ponytail. This tribute included some Chrissy jokes:

            Chrissy: I’m taking singing lessons.
            Man: Are they teaching you how to use your diaphragm?
            Chrissy: They don’t have to. I’m on the Pill!

A spoof of TV commercials featured Suzanne in a feathered chicken outfit shuffling across the stage singing the Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup jingle. The Q & A session that followed saw her asked her age, weight, and measurements (“Thirtysomething, twentysomething, thirtysomething.”) and, “Is John Ritter really gay?” “I can tell you from personal experience,” she said, “that John Ritter is the horniest heterosexual in the world!”

A short reel of THREE’S COMPANY bloopers followed and featured John supposedly nude under a box but holding the box high enough to accidentally reveal his brief briefs. Suzanne and Dick Sargent were seen continually breaking  glasses and breaking up during a  toast and then Suzanne was seen messing up and the clipboard man going “Take Two, “Take Three,” etc., eventually shouting, “With all due respect, Take FIVE,” followed by Suzanne’s quiet aside on film, “Wise-ass.”

She then performed a medley of “Your” songs—“This One’s For You,” “Your Song,” etc., finally closing with “Razzle Dazzle,” a real show-stopper. Or rather, that SHOULD have been her closing number. The fact that she then went right into a badly timed “American Traditional” medley probably cost her a standing ovation. Several costume changes—two or three literally onstage—left her in a glittering dress. She said that now she’s a star of “Stage, Screen, TV, and PLAYBOY. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, professional show with a few dull moments.

After a 20-minute intermission, the curtain lifted again and Rich Little, shrouded in dimly lit blackness, stood above the orchestra and sang an introductory song for himself before leaping onto the stage to begin his act. 
Filled with political humor, risqué jokes, and some serious film star tributes, he offered a good selection of his famous impressions including Paul Lynde selling an album of “1000 Golden Stinkies” by John Wayne (“My Horse is Queer”), Boris Karloff, Johnny Carson’s Carnak, and others. The beginning of his act had Rich commenting on the cold weather and someone in the audience yelling as if on cue, “How cold IS it?” which prompted Rich to crack up and say, “This audience is really on the ball!”

Later, in Groucho makeup, Rich ran through the audience, tossing off one liners like, “Do you know the difference between making love and making a salad?” only to get the answer, “Yes,” from an audience member who said he had read the reviews of the show. Everyone cracked up, once again including Rich. 

George Burns and the late Jack Benny had a discussion on modern politics next. Rich himself called the Ayatollah, “Rip Van Winkle.”

An MGM tribute was the highlight of the show with Rich channeling Durante, Kelly, Satchmo, Bing, Louis Jourdan, Howard Keel, and, the show’s best moment, Clark Gable. To a film tribute to Gable—scenes from throughout his career—Rich, in character, sang “It Was a Very Good Year” very poignantly, even somehow managing to LOOK like the King of Hollywood. 

Tough to top that but he moved on into a political debate with Cronkite, Brinkley, and Reasoner asking questions of Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, and Carter. At one point during this section, Rich had trouble with a Chinese joke and instead talked about Chinese people who were in the audience at one of his shows in Vegas.

A few other of the many voices the man did were Bogart, Walter Brennan, and Maurice Chevalier. He finished up with singing impressions that included Neil Diamond, Perry Como (his best!), Frank Sinatra, Anthony Newley, Tom Jones, and Robert “Ghoulie” as he called him. 

Afterwards, he came off stage and walked through the audience as the orchestra played, shaking hands with everyone all around, including me! 

A fine, funny show from two very talented people!


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