Sunday, May 10, 2015

An Evening with Shirley MacLaine Review

"I Have to Tell You a Story"

I'm rarely impressed (truly impressed) with anyone; but almost two hours with living legend Shirley MacLaine was enough to win me over forever. The Oscar winning-actor dazzled a full house at the Music Center at Strathmore last night, acting and looking half her age (81... I actually had to check, because I didn't believe it.) Before the show, I mentioned to my aunt that nobody could hold my attention for an hour, simply by talking. Needless to say, I was dead wrong.

An Evening with Shirley MacLaine began with an enthralling but ultimately too long (45+ minutes) video presentation, recapping a storied life/career that she modestly referred to as, "a compilation of my life." It focused mostly on her films (65 total, resulting in five Oscar noms (1 win) and two BAFTA awards) with a self-narrated insight that made you feel this close to her. She also talked about her family (including brother/fellow Oscar winner Warren Beatty) local ties (she grew up in Virginia, and attended the Washington School of Ballet on Wisconsin Avenue) and the dozens of amazing people she's crossed paths with. How amazing? Try Elvis, Frank Sinatra, the Dalai Lama ("a total flirt") Presidents Clinton, Kennedy and Carter, Indira Gandhi and Fidel Castro on for size. And that only begins to cover it.

Oscar night with James L. Brooks and Jack Nicholson (r)

She revealed all kinds of goodies... even before sitting down with the Washington Post's Peter Marks. For example, did you know Bette Davis drank champagne out of Shirley's shoe; or that MacLaine had a crush on Sidney Poitier, "I had a crush on him. He didn't give me the time of day." Once she took the stage, "This is the nicest reception I've had in 600,000 years," she continued to delight, showcasing her incredible energy, comedic chops and plainspokenness. Then the real fun began.

It was one incredible story after another. Shirley told Castro that she liked his uniform; so he gave her one as a gift. When she arrived back home, her housekeeper (who happened to be Cuban) unpacked her suitcase, saw it and quit! Even better... Did you know Shirley was supposed to fill in for Marilyn Monroe's famous "Happy Birthday Mr. President" song back in 1962, because Monroe had issues with her dress? Best of all, MacLaine gave off a vibe of zero pretentiousness throughout the evening. She's seemingly done and seen it all; yet she doesn't even flinch when asked by an audience member who her greatest paramour was, instead delighting the audience once again with, "One with or without penetration?"

Always smiling. With Dean Martin

The show ended about 20 minutes past 10; but it could have easily gone on all night. Marks was a splendid moderator, politely peppering MacLaine with questions and wisely allowing her to shine (as if he or anyone could stop the inevitable.) She ended the night with sagely advice (trust your Guardian Angel) clever observations (happiness is "loving the moment you're in") and yet another hilarious answer to an audience question, "I didn't have time to do both," referring to homosexuality, followed by an open-minded, positive response about free choice. As the entire audience stood to bid her farewell, all I could wish for, was a chance to continue the conversation... backstage, in the lobby or even over the telephone. I still had a million questions to ask, and I'm willing to bet she'd answer them all, with the same grace & style she appears to exercise at all times. That's a pretty incredible first impression from an even more incredible lady. Until the next (life)time...