Saturday, November 7, 2009

Florence Henderson Exhilarating at the Magic Castle

A radiant Florence Henderson presented her newly revamped live one-woman musical show All the Lives of Me at the Magic Castle Monday and Tuesday, November 9 and 10. The lady is still beautiful, can still sing - and is one hilariously engaging cabaret performer.
All the Lives of Me (song by Peter Allen) is divided into the various chapters of Henderson's life: daughter, aspiring Broadway performer, TV mom, real mom, wife, and, of course, with no influences from Shirley MacLaine - her next life.
It's a musical journey. Henderson's instrument is still marvelously in tune. She's best in the lower registers, but can still hit the high notes and sustain them. Highlights included: "Moonshine Lullaby" (her daddy in Kentucky was a dirt poor sharecropper and moonshiner), "You Are My Sunshine" (as a little girl, Henderson's mother forced her to sing for money to feed their family) and "My Old Kentucky Home". She passed a hat amongst audience members like she did in Kentucky as a girl and later , true humanitarian that she is, declared that all cash received was being donated to Project Angel Food.
In the Broadway segment, she recreated the song that served as her audition for Richard Rodgers, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'", and then a gorgeous "Where or When" followed as Nellie Forbush from South Pacific by "I'm In Love With a Wonderful Guy". Not to worry, "The Brady Bunch" theme, which she referred to as the National Anthem, was rendered, as well as a lovely warm "My Heart Stood Still" and her intimate hommage to her 4 children, "My Babies and Me".
Henderson's sense of humor was unleashed as she told some very funny stories and jokes, one in particular that I will never forget about producer David Merrick. Phyllis Diller was quoted to have said, "If you need a heart transplant, try and get his, as he's never used it!"
A fun Q & A with the audience allowed Henderson to disclose her favorite leading men: Ricardo Montalban (The King and I) and Ezio Pinza (Fanny), and to compare her career with Shirley Jones, "We had similar beginnings, singing for Rodgers and Hammerstein. I didn't get the movie of Oklahoma. We all know Shirley Jones did. The little bitch!" She laughed saying she loves Shirley and that she (Jones) knows about the inclusion of the story in Florence's show. Robert Reed received a loving tribute as actor, costar (The Brady Bunch) and friend as she dedicated "One" from A Chorus Line to him. "He was a brilliant actor. He wanted so much and tried so hard to be a song and dance man". The Brady Bunch Variety Hours are considered cult classics in the gay community.
She promised to tell only the truth about everything, was honest about her Catholic background and her 4 pregnancies and expressed genuine regret about her divorce from first husband Ira Bernstein.
Let's not forget to praise Glen Roven, her musical director, who set the stage by introducing himself as one of Henderson's greatest fans. He has all of her Broadway cast albums. He was great, as were the 3 gals who provided backup singing and accompaniment on the sax, cello et al.
The 90 minute set went by in a flash, literally, and Henderson heartfully accepted a standing ovation. Florence Henderson - I've always loved her! - is, yes, TV's most remembered mom (a role she never wanted), a humble human being and an overall dandy entertainer par excellence. Brava!


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