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February 1, 2011 Comments (4) Views: 1576 #Theater and Stage, Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Stage

REVIEW: “I Love Lily Tomlin.”

Lily Tomlin has been my Supreme Empress of All The World since I first witnessed her perform on stage some ten years ago at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in Jane Wagner’s smashingly vivid one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. That may sound like a super-silly way of looking upon a celebrity, but in all fairness to my claim of looking at her as such, I really do stand by that assessment. There really hasn’t been a single project of hers I have not kept myself on top of since her radiant stage performance that evening, and it’s more than likely I will be following her for the rest of existence.

By this point in my life, most everyone who knows me is aware she is my favorite working actress, and some have been around through my whole period of adoration. When I saw her perform at the Rep, I knew her only through her work as the voice of Ms Frizzle on “The Magic School Bus”, and her performance in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. While brilliant at punching the laughs wherever she could, and as in favorable association to her work, I was also left paralyzed with astonishment at her ease and versatility. To see one woman, middle aged, all alone in the most simple outfit, perform a series of interwoven, thoroughly brilliant characters – often conversing between themselves – so effortlessly, just bouncing from one to the next then back to the other, and onto another… always fresh, always with full-energy, zest, appeal, and grace – never once failing to capture the distinct personalities that make each and every one an individual, entrapped in their own blender of problems and celebrations… it is, in a word, genius.

So, her most recent pit-stop on her “Best Of…” tour was here in Seattle, playing the beautiful 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown. A different theatrical offering, one that displayed the multitude of characters she has embodied, created, or co-created with Ms Wagner over the course of 40 years, once again in a single setting, relaying on pure talent and genius. I surprised myself, even, by my ability to recognize every character she introduced – including a super rare sketch involving a mother wading through her front yard turned literal war-zone by the neighborhood kids, one that I have read was a bit controversial back when originally introduced. Of course, we had the favorites properly introduced mid-way and toward the end of the evening’s festivities, Edith Ann – the precarious 6 year old more often than not found sitting on a gigantic rocking chair, telling us some fable that she insists is truth; and Ernestine, the bitchiest tribute to the Telephone Operator possibly ever. The pageantry also mixed Lily’s iconic “I’m worried…” opening that was featured in both her one-woman shows on Broadway, “Appearing Nitely” and “The Search…”, my favorite being:

“I’m worried that if olive oil comes from olives, and peanut oil comes from peanuts… Where does baby oil come from?”

We sampled two slices of Trudy, the not-so-crazy-but-she’s-totally-crazy New York City bag lady; a hysterical, unexpected, but perfectly welcome look into Madame Lupe, a beauty expert whose own patterns toward presenting herself as beautiful are best left to a reader’s imagination; Judith Beasley, the homemaker who finds herself often inspired to come onto national television to inform you of the latest, brilliant product that has reinvented her way of keeping up a homestead, giving us the insight to her recent discovery of the joys in sex-toys; Lud and Marie, a take on Lily’s own parents, though according to her, “their names have been changed to protect them” (a line I remember leading to the same sketch from her 1977 album “Lily Tomlin On Stage”); and (not to skip the rest) a brilliant assortment of others, including two monologues delivered by Lily Tomlin as Lily Tomlin… if that makes sense! All in all, another fantastic 2 hours spent with my favourite theatrical influence.

To wrap this up, for I could go off on any number of tangents right now… I must say, it was enchanting to see Seattle has such a beating heart for Lily. The audience was electric, alive, packed, and on its feet twice by the end of her show. Lily Tomlin has been, as I mentioned earlier, entertaining audiences for over 40 years, and by now has become a sort of national treasure. Her impeccable timing, and chameleon like versatility are unmatched by today’s idea of physical comedy and live performance work, and to see she is still busting her chops, and giving every ounce of energy and individuality she has ever had is bewitching, and worth noting with proper appreciation. I hope her flame never goes out, and that my life will have many more experiences seeing her do what it is she does best.

Bless you, Lily Tomlin.


4 Responses to REVIEW: “I Love Lily Tomlin.”

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  2. She was FAAAAABulous as always!! I just posted a couple shots of us after the show on Saturday. She had a blast, loved the theatre, and was amazed by the audience!!
    M’wah – M.

  3. old fan says:

    Old fan from Detroit where I first saw her in a strip club. My friend and I snuck in. We were 7.

    This show was a huge disappointment. Paid a crapload of money to sit up close. Usually people in these seats are stiff to be around, but they laughed above average.

    Lily looked amazing. She still has it. The physical energy. The timing between character transitions. Some of the material was so old that people were reciting lines as if it were some classic pop tune. However, the punch of the memory was often lost by her memory losses and rambling. I was embarrassed for her disorganization. It felt very unprofessional. For 115 bucks a ticket, I’d like to see her having already rehearsed and tested the new material. I would have liked to seen at least one new character. I felt that she was really lazy and on auto pilot.

    The chief problem, though was staging and direction; there really was none. This should have been tight. This should have been a powerful review of her classic work. All of this was lost because of very bad direction. The lighting was really bad too. The screen showing the old clips were like watching something on an ancient VCR. Bad sound too. She lost he place so many times that it became distracting. She did not know how to end the show. She did not transition well between her role as being “not a professional actress but a real person like yourself.” Some of the personal stuff was cute, but it was not “part of the show.” It could have been and it was have been “acted” as such and have been far more meaningful. I so do wish that she would have saved her audience chat pieces for the end. Big loss for me was to wait for so many years and not hear Sister Boogie woman.

    2.5 out of 5 stars. Sorry Lily. Loyal fan, but rehearsals don’t stop just because you’re a star who can fill a room and are 71.

  4. Hello Old Fan,

    I’ll keep this brief.

    Personally, I don’t think we as an audience were ever in to catch Lily Tomlin attempting another one-woman show along the lines of “Appearing Nitely” or “The Search for Signs…”, but more of a relaxed pageantry of her finest, well-known, and closest-to-heart work. Again, I won’t go into extreme detail, nor say you’re incorrect in having this opinion, but I couldn’t disagree with you more. I wasn’t around in the 1960’s to have caught her act in Detroit, nor even alive to have seen “The Search…” before it received a Broadway revival, so I suppose I cannot compare this performance to those you have in your database to go off of. I did catch her perform “The Search…” at the Rep back in 2000, as I stated in my review, and feel she was in a different state of performance-mode for that show, and it was electric… and this performance at the 5th Avenue Theatre was as much up to par, though more relaxed, and yes — ten years later.

    I normally wouldn’t respond to any comments on my reviews, unless there are specific questions, but I just disagree with your tone and criticisms so much. I look forward to paying another $80 to see Lily perform, be it in ten months or another ten years, and hope and trust she’ll give just as dynamite and brilliant a theatrical display of priceless humor and thoughtful candor.