Tammy Grimes in an undated photo (Photo Credit: Corbis)
(NEW YORK)- Tony Award-winning performer Tammy Grimes wraps up a one-woman show this week at The Metropolitan Room, on West Twenty-Second Street, in Manhattan. In "Miss Tammy Grimes: Favorite Songs and Stories", Grimes has assembled an eclectic variety of songs, interwoven with droll anecdotes culled from a life in the theater.
If you wish you could have been around to witness Lotte Lenya mutter out dark cabaret songs in Weimar-era Berlin, or to experience Elsa Lanchester belt bawdy beer-hall standards, live, in a seedy London tavern, don't miss this unique opportunity to witness these underground icons' rightful heir - Tammy Grimes is the Lotte Lenya of our time, with more than a little Elsa thrown in for good
Underground icon and cabaret star Lotte Lenya as the infamous Rosa Klebb in "From Russia With Love " (1963).
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
British cabaret star and horror legend Elsa Lanchester, around 1939
Photo Credit: British Film Archives
With "Favorite Songs and Stories", Grimes returns to her NYC cabaret roots, introducing one comic standard, "Rose of Washington Square", with reminiscences recounting her discovery, in the late '50s, by Noel Coward, who, after seeing her perform at a cabaret called "Downstairs at the Upstairs", immediately cast her in his play "Look After Lulu!"
Grimes says her good friend, the late actor Roddy McDowell, urged Mr. Coward not to miss Grimes's legendary cabaret show, and, following her role in "Look After Lulu!", Grimes went on to share an important number of milestones with Coward, including a 1970 Tony Award for her performance as Amanda in "Private Lives".
Grimes has assembled her show from a wide variety of genres, but the stand-outs, aside from well-known Broadway classics like "Pirate Jenny (Brecht, Blitzstein and Weill)" and "I Ain't Down Yet" (Meredith Wilson), are her somewhat obscure cabaret numbers from the fifties and sixties, such as "Ring Them Bells" (Kander and Ebb), and "More Than One Man in Her Life" (Dulchin and Valenti).
"Favorite Songs and Stories" is scheduled to close on June 30, but from the packed room and the enthusiastic reaction of the audience, it's a good bet the show could be extended, or brought back soon.
Expect to see a number of familiar faces from stage and screen in the audience.
Last Friday, Katherine Helmond from TV's "Soap" was in the audience, singing along to every word, as was Marcia Rodd, the actress best-known for starring as Irene, Archie Bunker's spirited Irish barmaid from "All and the Family". Unfortunately I missed Rex Reed, who was in attendance the previous night. If you can get Table One, a perfectly situated booth with a view of the entire room, do it---you'll see so many 1980s TV stars you'll go nuts, if you're a geek -, like me.
Grimes is a kid of eminence grise in the theatre world, as well as a brilliant character actress who has appeared in everything from "Slaves of New York" to "The Love Boat", to "High Art", to her own ABC Sitcom, "The Tammy Grimes Show", which ran for one month in the mid-sixties.
In 1961, Grimes won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, for the title character, Molly Brown, in Meredith Wilson's "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", a role she originated. Grimes again won the Tony for Best Actress in a Play for the role of Amanda in Noel Coward's "Private Lives". She also reportedly turned down the role of Samantha in "Bewitched", and, according to Grimes, was the lead contender for the role of Holly Gollightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", a role, she recalls in the show, promised her by "Tiffany's" author Truman Capote.
Grimes's new show, "Miss Tammy Grimes's favorite songs and stories", Grimes assembles a collection of songs from a surprising variety of genres, from cabaret gems, to Broadway classics ("Pirate Jenny" by Brecht/Blitzstein and Kurt Weill), to folk-rock ballads("Martha", by Tom Waits), to C&W ("He Went To Paris" by Jimmy Buffett"), and back to Broadway ("I Ain't Down Yet" by Meredith Wilson and "Tale Of The Oyster" by Cole Porter).
The set list, Grimes explains on stage, is compiled with help from Grimes's third husband, the late Richard Jameson Bell, an engineer who Grimes describes as "the smartest man she ever met", and "the great love of her life". In her explanation of the show's song list, Grimes makes several dry, witty digressions about her other husbands, such as the actor Christopher Plummer, with whom she had a daughter, "Pulp Fiction" psycho Amanda Plummer. In discussing her first ex-husband, Grimes describes the Academy-Award winning actor "a beautiful man, who is still a beautiful man". Of her daughter Amanda, a notorious Hollywood hell-raiser, she asks the audience, should they see her, to pleae have her "call Mommy sometime". Grimes's second husband, actor Jeremy Slate, according to Grimes, "would stray from his finer sense of judgement from time to time", "by doing things like jogging nude through the Disney lot", Grimes explains. "Well, not entirely nude," Grimes adds: "he was wearing sneakers and a Donald Duck mask,".
This beautifully calibrated cabaret show transitions almost imperceptibly from laugh-out loud funny, to sad, to haunting, to even terrifying, as when Grimes unleashes her considerable vocal power to deliver a blacker-than-pitch "Pirate Jenny" from "Threepenny Opera".
Grimes performs the kinder, gentler and sadder folk songs and country songs with much delicacy and wistfulness, but she never descends into sentimentality. Her vaguely peculiar, Boston Brahmin-style diction, and her exquisitely presice enunciation lend her song portrayals an air of distinction and gentility, and her performance harkens back to a more artistic and literary era, when popular culture was seen as a means of self-improvement, as well as entertainment. In fact, Andy Warhol once said of Grimes that she had the most recognizable voice in the world, and he got her to admit that she was the voice behind a series of popular radio advertisements playing in NYC throughout the sixties.
According to The New York Times, Grimes is working on a massive memoir recounting her sixty-year career in theatre and film; for the abriged version, complete with music, go see this beautifully designed show at The Metropolitan Room.
Miss Tammy Grimes
Favorite Songs & Stories
June 29 & 30
All Shows at 7:00 pm
34 West Twenty-Second Street
Reservations (212) 206-0440
or at www.metropolitanroom.com