An Evening with Jack Klugman

“An Evening with Jack Klugman”
a kate west review
created, written and performed by Jack Klugman
at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, (818) 955-8101.

Jack Klugman is a wonderful story teller. He spends an entire evening describing his delightful theater and film career as well as some of his life’s troubles. Because of his throat surgery for cancer he speaks in a harsh whisper which grows into more of a growl as the evening progresses. At first this is disconcerting for the audience and you wonder how he will be able to talk a full two hours. He soon puts you at your ease however, as he is such a comfortable veteran of the stage and so very engaging. When he speaks of all the wonderful people he has worked with you feel as if you were right there with him.

Illustrious co-stars included Jack Lemmon, Walther Matthau, Lee J. Cobb, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Ethel Merman among others, and of course his neurotic roommate Felix Unger (Tony Randall) from the hit 1970’s television show “The Odd Couple.” His stories of Ethel Merman are especially moving, from his anxiety performing as a non-singer with her in the Broadway production of “Gypsy” to Merman’s gradual and sad demise at the end of her career. Each tale is succinctly yet tenderly told and is as genuine and interesting as Klugman himself. His epiphany about what doors were opened doing theater is inspiring and real.

During the second half of the evening, Klugman removes his toupee, dons a baggy sweater and answers questions from audience cue cards. The Moderator Rowan Joseph is a gentle presence, occasionally jogging Klugman’s memory of the past. All this and many clips and slides from his amazing theatrical-cinematic life and it is a splendid evening indeed, especially for those in the “biz.” But even if you’re not, you will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and Klugman’s wit and wisdom.

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