Only a handful of one-man or one-woman shows actually received cast albums in this decade, and this is one of the best of them. Elaine Stritch here tells her life story, using cleverly repurposed showtunes and standards to musicalize her own experiences after the fact.
If you think two hours of Elaine Stritch rambling about her life wouldn’t hold your attention, you clearly don’t know Elaine Stritch: her singing voice, never spectacular, has not improved with age, but she remains one of the funniest women in Broadway history.
Hearing her dish about every famous figure she’s ever met, bare her soul with a naked and heartrending vulnerability on occasion, and somehow manage to perfectly validate every number she sings even without the benefit of vocal chops, makes both this show and its (highly recommended) cast album one of the decade’s most enthralling theatrical experiences.
Part of this is simply because of who’s starring: Martin Short (Fame Becomes Me) and Sherie Renee Scott (Everyday Rapture) are both immensely talented people, but neither of them are of the same caliber of genuine living legend as Stritch, and by the 2000s, Liza Minnelli didn’t have remotely the level of cogency or consistency Stritch did at this point.
As for Barbara Cook, her contributions to the genre are of course wonderful, but her shows were essentially concerts, whereas this piece, with its autobiographical narrative structure and surprisingly dramatic use of music, played much more like a genuine musical.
Stritch still had it, and after years of stealing shows in supporting roles and starring in two worthy vehicles that regrettably flopped, this show offered Stritch her greatest Broadway triumph.