Jolson at the Winter Garden
This nostalgic musical, written by Bill Castellino and Mike Burstyn, starring Burstyn in the title role, is a hagiographic biography of singer-actor Al Jolson, featuring many of his trademark songs. Burstyn captures Jolson's distinctively brassy voice and vocal mannerisms with almost phonographic accuracy, and he's ably supported by a trio of backup singers: Jacqueline Bayne, Laura Hodos and Wayne LeGette. There is a wisp of a plot to provide a framework, but it's the songs that matter. They range from the novelty ditty from the early Jolson hit Robinson Crusoe, called "Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night?" performed by Burstyn and LeGette, with interpolated vaudeville shtick, to Jolson standards like "Swanee," "Toot Toot Tootsie," "You Made Me Love You," the schmaltzy "Sonny Boy" and, inevitably, for a finale, "My Mammy." Burstyn's Jolson is genial, laid-back and marked by arrogance and egotism as well as high energy and magnetism. The show is slickly directed and choreographed by Castellino on Timothy R. Mackabee's lavish, glitzy set, with sharp musical direction by Christopher McGovern. There's clearly still a remarkable amount of affection for Jolson, even among the majority of audiences too young to have heard him in his heyday. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat & Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (877) 733-7529, ElPortalTheatre.com.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 6. Continues through Sept. 25, 2011
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