When i told a publicist that I was going to see Kathleen Turner singing at The Town Hall last week, he said to me” I didn’t know Kathleen Turner sang”? Well, it turns out she can’t; not very well, anyway. The night at least in the beginning was fun, Turner was self-deprecating, as she told funny stories about her life, her family growing up, how her father was a diplomat and how he gave his life to service. Turner told little anecdotes about her film, stage and T.V. career.
Turner felt the love of theater when her father was transferred to England. St.John’s Wood is where the Turner’s would live for years and where Kathleen began going to the theater in London’s West End. When her father died, Turner was eighteen and she and her mother moved back home to Missouri. To keep from culture shock, Kathleen studied theater and as she put it, “I never stopped acting”. As a waitress in New York, she caught a break when she starred in “Body Heat”. From there offers to star in movies kept coming, soon she would film “The Man with Two Brains”, “Romancing the Stone” and “War of The Roses”. Soon after, Ms.Turner would star on Broadway and would go on to be nominated for several Tony Awards.
In the first act of this two-hour show, the star would talk about her many different roles in her 43 years in the business of acting. Director Andy Gale made this an evening of cabaret with Kathleen Turner’s little snippets about her life in between.
The lighting design by Ed McCarthy with the purple, steely blues and yellow whites made for a nightclub affect. The songs here were somewhat in synch with as her life was going by: ” Sweet Kentucky Ham on Your Mind” went well with her telling of the years of travel and being on the road doing films, missing friends along the way. As she closed out the first act she talked about living on 10th Street in The West Village, making a promise to herself to play “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf” by the age of 50; her playing The Metropolitan Opera and doing Dolly Parton’s “Heartstrings”. Even though Turner’s range was limited, the first act was bearable because of the story telling and matching songs.
Act two was a complete disaster. Turner’s voice as well as her stamina began to give way and with just average musicians behind her, here is where things unraveled. The act opened with guitarist Sean Harkness, pianist Mark Janas and bassist Ritt Henn warming the crowd back up. When Turner came out in her oversized black slacks and shirt, she seemed uninspired with “Brother can You Spare a Dime”. She talked about her dream of being an actress and that she still can’t believe that she is famous. Many if not all of the songs in this act were horrific. Turner’s limited ability to sing was usurped by her effort to get the words to come out properly. Most disturbing about the evening, however, was her political statements. She talked about it being “The American Way to hunt right wing lunatics'”, how being in Planned Parenthood was a proud thing for her and that anyone who does not believe in a right to choose “Is A Fucking Idiot”. Many of Turner’s political remarks drew wide applause, but one questions: why talk politics at a concert? People are there to escape from the many problems that surround us.
Ms. Turner omits the rapid inflation, the botched exit of Afghanistan, but speaks of right wingers and lack of compassion. It was here that she sang “Send in the Clowns”, which made me chuckle thinking who is in office now. While this rendition of “Clowns” was bearable, the evening was not. The bad singing, the bad politics and the over embellishing of her Rheumatoid Arthritis was just too much to handle for one night.
Leaving Town Hall and listening to the standing ovation behind me, made me think “are New Yorkers losing their panache and their street smarts? In the old days Turner would have been booed off the stage, here they gave her a Divas welcome.