Oh my, Dave and I went to see Tammy Grimes singing at the Plush Room last night. I’m glad we did. She’s in her 70s, and her hands shake a bit, and her voice wavers a bit too, but she can still hold an audience, at least a cabaret-sized audience. I still can’t really connect the cozy and plumpish woman I saw, who ought to be cast in a sitcom as somebody’s affectionate if slightly offbeat grandmother, with the flamboyant, headstrong, and eccentrically mannered force of nature she once was, but when she’s singing, you can’t miss that wonderful hazy timbre of hers, and she still has a lot of charisma and stage presence.
There were the expected songs from Molly Brown of course, and I suppose she had to do something from High Spirits though I wouldn’t have minded if she hadn’t — Molly Brown at least has the distinction of being one of the best scores ever written for such a poorly constructed musical, the album just a delight to listen to even if actually sitting through the show a second time is enough to sate your appetite for the story for the rest of your life, while High Spirits is even more poorly constructed (if I ever get around to writing a book on how to craft the book for a musical or opera, the book for High Spirits could serve as the Bad Example for the chapter on how to integrate your songs with your story) and has an routine and uninspired score to boot.
But Ms. Grimes did a whole bunch of other show and pop songs, including a really good “Rose of Washington Square” and a powerful “Pirate Jenny” that made me wonder why for crying out loud she doesn’t have two or three more Weill songs in her set. There was a song from an off-Broadway musical she won an Obie for, I’d never heard of it and can’t now remember the name, but the song was very nice, very wry, sort of a rewrite of the drinking song from School for Scandal but written from a woman’s point of view instead of a man’s.
But even some of the more ordinary songs were delightful, she sang them with so much warmth and charm and meaning. A very enjoyable evening.