So many little girls dream of having a career on the Broadway stage. At Don’t Tell Mama, I had the great good fortune of spending time in the company of a little girl who did exactly what so many dream of, and with sweetness, with verve, with panache.
The inimitable Lane Bradbury was the original Dainty June Gypsy in 1959. Her career has not only included musical theater but also dozens and dozens of television appearances, beginning with Gunsmoke and stretching up through Party of Five, and iconic films like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. In her most recent turn at entertaining us, a cabaret memoir called Let Me Entertain You, Again, Lane shows us that artists are born, not made, and that once you’ve got “it”, it never goes away.
Like the character of Dainty June, Lane gives the impression of being eternally childlike yet lets you know she has a naughty side that you will find delightful. The show is written for her by Doug DeVita, who creates just the right pace and tone. Not content with simply writing patter between numbers, DeVita showcases the moments in her life when Lane was in conflict with parents, a feckless lover, the legendary Jerome Robbins, and the even more legendary Ethel Merman. Though the stories themselves are Lane’s own, DeVita deftly shapes the evening by giving them a sophisticated framework from which to sing out, baby, between songs by Jule Styne, Steven Schwartz, and Harold Karr.
We even get a tad bit of audience participation, with Ms. Bradbury calling out for a volunteer from the audience to sing the part of Louise so that she can give us a very sweet rendition of “If Mama Was Married.” I can think of a half-dozen friends of mine who would have loved to jump up on that stage for the honor of singing with Lane. And a half-dozen more who would have felt like belting Jerome Robbins after Lane told us the “teapot story” from the run of Gypsy – well, of course, I’ll just let Lane tell you that story herself.
With Joe Goodrich providing rock-solid musical direction and support on piano, and Bradbury’s daughter Elkin Antoniou directing, Lane Bradbury is given the perfect platform, from which she radiates an almost supernatural charm and elegance.
Sadly, the performance I caught at Don’t Tell Mama will not be repeated there, but judging by the enormous enjoyment of the audience and the glee with which Ms. Bradbury performed her evening of songs and stories, I’m sure she will perform again soon. For more information you may contact Stephen Hanks at Cabaret Life productions (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if there’s another show coming round.
And, as if it’s not enough to sing, dance and entertain folks like a veritable firecracker, Lane Bradbury is also the artistic director of Valkyrie Theatre of Dance, Drama & Film back home in Los Angeles, a non-profit that uses the arts to bring hope, healing and identity to at risk children and teens. Find them at the URL: (http://valkyrietheater.org/) for more information, or to make a donation.