At Home at the Carlyle: Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim … Again. Why Not?
She’s sarcastic. She’s intense. But, at age 86, Elaine Stritch is having trouble remembering the lyrics to songs she’s performed countless times before.
On the opening night of her new cabaret show, which sports the long-winded title “At Home at the Carlyle: Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim … Again. Why Not?,” Elaine, wearing black tights and a large white shirt, had to stop and pause during almost every song for pianist Rob Bowman to feed her some lyrics.
These quibbles aside — or perhaps even because of them — what emerges is a genuinely thrilling portrait of a committed trooper pushing ahead and earnestly paying tribute to Broadway’s greatest living composer. Each time she needed a lyric, she swung back into the song with no loss in intensity.
Stritch brings her trademark deadpan delivery and dry sense of humor to many of the songs, most notably an ironically tinged “I Feel Pretty” and a Groucho Marx-inspired “Send in the Clowns.”
But most of the time, Stritch provides incredibly dramatic and intense renditions of Sondheim’s most difficult songs. She even tackles “Rose’s Turn” from “Gypsy” and tears into it with absolute ferocity.
In the strangest moment of all, Stritch reinterprets “Everyday a Little Death” from “A Little Night Music” as a meditative monologue without music. You start to feel as though you are watching a Samuel Beckett drama instead of nightclub entertainment.
While this is nowhere near as well-crafted as “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” for which she won a Tony Award, it showcases her status as one of the foremost interpreters of Sondheim’s songs.
As icing on the cake, Stritch performs “The Little Things You Do Together” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” the two songs she originated in “Company.” She ought to have no trouble remembering those lyrics.
If you go:
“At Home at the Carlyle” plays through Oct. 8 at the Café Carlyle. 35 E. 76th St., 212-744-1600, the carlyle.com