Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Reynolds Made Us Love Her; We Had No Choice

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Reynolds Made Us Love Her; We Had No Choice

Article excerpt

Debbie Reynolds died, and I can't stop thinking about my mom.

My mother and Reynolds had nothing in common, aside from my mom being a fan. Reynolds died Wednesday at age 84 just a day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed away. My mom died more than 20 years ago in the summer of 1996. She was 82. But there is a connection.

In 1973, I went to Washington, D.C., with my mom. It was just the two of us exploring the capital. We saw "Irene." The musical was trying out in D.C. before it was scheduled to open in New York. Reynolds was the star. I wanted to go and my mom had interest as well. So we got tickets way up high, which is where we usually sat when we went to a Broadway show.

Years later, I would read that "Irene" was a troubled production saved in part by the entrance of Gower Champion as director. No matter, in 1973 I was delighted. I was 15, and a show with buoyant tunes and dances was all I required. Plus, the presence of a bona fide movie star helped.

My guess is mom liked "Irene" because it was comfortable, not edgy like other shows of that time. Nobody got naked or even half- naked. There was a big dance number, in particular, and Reynolds was wearing a turban or some kind of hairpiece and it fell off at the end. As the audience applauded wildly, she grabbed the turban and clumsily put it on so it covered a bit of forehead. It was funny, improvised shtick.

They say doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Maybe it is. But it also is the definition of musical theater. Actors do the same song- and-dance numbers every performance, following the same choreography and music cues, and it is never the same.

Perhaps the headpiece came off at other performances; I do not know. I only remember that it did that night. And what I remember most about that performance was sitting next to my mom in the upper reaches of the National Theatre. We had other moments later in life, other shows and concerts. But when I read of Fisher's death and that she appeared with her mother in "Irene," this moment came back like a lost smell of Christmas cookies from the kitchen. …

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