BWW Reviews: Neile Adams Brings THE LIVES OF ME to the El Portal
Despite some glitches in lighting and sound, which obviously irritated her, and some throat problems due to a cold, Neile Adams proved a great trouper once more as she adhered to the old adage " the show must go on" and wholeheartedly essayed The Lives of Me at the Monroe Theatre of the El Portal Saturday evening May 24.
Revamped since I last saw it, the 65-minute show has many new songs and follows with more detail an autobiographical thread line of Adams' colorful life on film and stage....as well as her personal memories. There are tributes to her beautiful mother, to her husband Steve McQueen, her second husband Alvin Toffel and to both her children, mostly through song and with the help of slide/photo montages on a screen behind her. Evenly directed by Ted Sprague, Adams is backed by three musical pros: Andy Howe on piano, Steve Pemberton on drums and Karl Vincent on bass.
The show opens with a film clip from MGM's This Could Be the Night from 1957, in which Adams portrayed Patsy St. Clair, a burlesque dancer in a night club run by Paul Douglas. Also in the film were Tony Franciosa, Jean Simmons and Joan Blondell, as well as songstress Julie Wilson and Ray Anthony and his orchestra. Adams did a winning "Hustlin' Newsgal" dance/song in strip form where she removed a newspaper page from various parts of her anatomy until she was dancin' in her scivvies, quite risque for that era, showing off a dynamite figure, which she has maintained to this day. It had remarkable choreography and Adams just sparkled in her torrid routine.
She opened the live part of the show with Jerry Herman's rousing anthem "I Am What I Am", followed by a slower mellow ballad "My Old Flame". Her loving tribute to her mother included tunes in Spanish "Que sabes tu?" and "Solamente Una Vez". There followed a delightfully off-color, but fun nod to an old promiscuous roommate in New York, named Susie: "When I'm Not Near the Man I Love". Jack Klugman lived across the hall from them, and one day, he said quite frankly, "We have a new cop on the beat. Don't schtupp him, Susie!" Funny stuff! Adams also came to life with Herman's "Wherever He Ain't" from Mack and Mabel gesturing cute dance moves that she can no longer perform due to a bad knee. Also on tap Billy Barnes' "Something Cool", "Always/Siempre", "You're Just Too Marvelous For Words" in honoring her second husband Alvin Toffel with some nice visuals to back it up. Kander & Ebb are favorite composers of Adams, and this time around, she displayed plenty of deep feeling with an effective medley combining "Not a Day Goes By" and "I Don't Remember You".
Perhaps the finest emotional moments came with McQueen's salute: she really relished "Something In the Way He Moves Me", "Windmills of Your Mind" (in the musical background), "Wasn't It Good?" and "In a Very Unusual Way". Adams simply glowed as she connected to the memory of McQueen. Also, wonderful was the nod to her son via the gorgeous "Stars" and the one to her daughter, who passed far too soon, with Charles Aznavour's evocative "She".
In summing up her life, Adams performed Peter Allen's "All the Lives of Me" with a montage of photos and clips showing high points from her entire career and personal life. As encore she truly shined with Chaplin's ever- moving "Smile".
As I've said previously, Neile Adams is a petite dynamo, a treasure who never gives up the ship. Thankfully for her audiences, with whom she has a tight bond, she still has a passion for the spotlight and knocks out her material with everything she's got to give. She'll return to Paris in November to do her show once more. "To Life!"
(photo credit: Steve Moyer)