GOTTI: IN THE SHADOW OF MY FATHER
Dream Girl of Musicals Dreams On
Cheerfully recounting her life and times in "An Evening of Story and Song," at Feinstein's at Loews Regency on Tuesday evening, Shirley Jones didnâ€™t mince words. "Speaking of clowns," she remarked after delivering a hearty rendition of "Send In the Clowns," "I happened to marry two."
The first was the "exquisitely handsome" but emotionally unstable Jack Cassidy (father of David by an earlier marriage), who Ms. Jones said had a lot in common with the character of Billy Bigelow from "Carousel." Cassidy died in a fire in 1976. The following year she married Marty Ingels, an actor, comedian, agent and producer, who, she said, made her laugh. "And 34 years later, Iâ€™m still laughing," she added. Mr. Ingels, an executive producer of a movie being made about John Gotti, starring John Travolta, was in the room with a party that included John Gotti Jr.
The show was prefaced by a video composite of snippets from Ms. Jones's films, including "Elmer Gantry" (1960), which won her an Academy Award for playing a prostitute. She credited its star, Burt Lancaster, with saving her career by offering her the role just when her first flush of success was beginning to wane. She also named Lancaster as the best kisser of all the leading men with whom she was shown smooching in a montage of screen clinches, and she admitted to having had an unconsummated crush on Richard Widmark.
Ms. Jones, who will turn 77 on March 31, is as wholesome and chipper a presence as she was in the days when she embodied the ultimate Rodgers and Hammerstein dream girl in the films of "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel." When she first auditioned for Rodgers and Hammerstein in New York, she recalled, she was barely 18 and didnâ€™t know who they were. At the time her alternate career goal was to be a veterinarian.
Sopranos like Ms. Jones must eventually decide whether to lower their keys or struggle to hit high notes. Ms. Jones, accompanied by Ron Abel on piano and Mark Vanderpool on bass, was still determined to reach those notes and succeeded some of the time. But if her voice didnâ€™t always obey her will, at least the spirit was there. Singing songs from "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel," she conveyed the naĂŻve romantic optimism of those showsâ€™ dated archetypes.
Shirley Jones continues through Saturday at Feinstein's at Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue, at 61st Street; (212) 339-4095 or feinsteinsattheregency.com.