Elaine Stritch, R.I.P.

Elaine Stritch, one of the twentieth century’s finest musical-comedy singers and most difficult human beings, has died at the improbable age of eighty-nine. While Stritchie (as Noël Coward dared to call her) is now best remembered for having been in the original cast of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, in which she sang “The Ladies Who Lunch,” she had a remarkable career before and after that landmark show, though her alcoholism too often kept her from making the best possible use of her extraordinary talents.

Elaine StritchStritch was past her prime when I became the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, but I still had occasion to review her on a few noteworthy occasions, including a revival of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame in which she acquitted herself quite wonderfully well.

My fondest memory of her, though, is of Elaine Stritch at Liberty, her 2002 one-woman Broadway show, in which she was brassily frank and scabrously funny about her long, erratic career (thanks in large part to John Lahr of The New Yorker, who undertook the thankless task of collaborating with her on the script). I wrote about the show in my New York column for the Washington Post:

Elaine Stritch can’t sing, but it doesn’t matter. “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” her one-woman show currently playing at the Neil Simon Theater, is an engrossing evening of alarmingly candid reminiscence by an actress who has seen everything and lived, and when she croaks her way through Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” the only acceptable response is to cheer and cheer again. “She can’t carry a tune in a bag,” I muttered to the woman sitting next to me, who muttered back, “I wish I couldn’t carry a tune like that.” Me, too.

I also remember how fabulous she looked in black tights—the very model of a sexy older woman.

* * *

From the 1970 documentary Company: Original Cast Album, directed by D.A. Pennebaker, Elaine Stritch sings “The Ladies Who Lunch” at the recording sessions for the show’s original-cast album:

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on Reddit

So you want to see a show?

Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.

BROADWAY:
Bullets Over Broadway (musical, PG-13, reviewed here)
Cabaret (musical, PG-13/R, many performances sold out last week, closes Jan. 4, reviewed here)
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (musical, PG-13, all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
Matilda (musical, G, all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
Les Misérables (musical, G, too long and complicated for young children, many performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
Once (musical, G/PG-13, reviewed here)
Rocky (musical, G/PG-13, closes Aug. 17, reviewed here)

OFF BROADWAY:
The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)
061814-f-whenwewereyng-40pWhen We Were Young and Unafraid (drama, PG-13, closes Aug. 10, reviewed here)

IN GARRISON, N.Y.:
Othello (Shakespeare, PG-13, closes Aug. 30, reviewed here)

CLOSING SOON IN GLENCOE, ILL.:
The Dance of Death (drama, PG-13, closes Aug. 3, reviewed here)

CLOSING NEXT WEEK ON BROADWAY:
Of Mice and Men (drama, PG-13, virtually all performances sold out last week, closes July 27, reviewed here)

CLOSING NEXT WEEK IN CHICAGO:
Juno (musical, PG-13, closes July 27, reviewed here)

CLOSING NEXT WEEK IN GLENCOE, ILL.:
Days Like Today (musical, PG-13, closes July 27, reviewed here)

CLOSING NEXT WEEK IN MADISON, N.J.:
The Devil’s Disciple (serious comedy, G/PG-13, closes July 27, reviewed here)

CLOSING SUNDAY IN PETERBOROUGH, N.H.:
Last of the Red Hot Lovers (comedy, PG-13, reviewed here)

CLOSING SUNDAY ON BROADWAY:
The Cripple of Inishmaan (serious comedy, PG-13, many performances sold out last week, reviewed here)

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on Reddit

Almanac: E.B. White on literary curiosity

INK BOTTLE“My reading habits have not changed over the years, only my eyesight has changed. I don’t like being indoors and get out every chance I get. In order to read, one must sit down, usually indoors. I am restless and would rather sail a boat than crack a book. I’ve never had a very lively literary curiosity, and it has sometimes seemed to me that I am not really a literary fellow at all. Except that I write for a living.”

E.B. White, Paris Review interview, Fall 1969 (courtesy of Michael Greenspan)

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on Reddit