Goldstein lights up Larry's Room with self-critical tales of men

Review by Paul Nelson

HANDS up all those who remember Rose-Marie. She was a blonde, American comedienne, with all the schtick of vaudeville, including excellent comedy timing, vocal talent and a personality that tends to go with the type. No stranger to Broadway, she latterly fetched up as sidekick to the star in The Dick van Dyke Show on television.

One of her great attributes was a cabaret performance during which she sang parodies of songs in which she lampooned herself and her lack of sexual conquests with various men. She was extremely funny and, it tends to go with the territory, the humour was Jewish.

Examples are Together Wherever We Go: " 'Wherever we are we're together … ' Herman Glimsher, me and his mother." and " 'Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are calling', The Pipes were friends of my mother's, Sam and Irene Pipe ... " The humour was fast, clean and had the audience in stitches. I thought her act unique and treasure a recording of an entire evening of her parodies presented to a wildly enthusiastic audience.

This very much longed-for vein has been mined again in the persona of another American, Shelly Goldstein, who recently appeared in Larry's Room at Pizza on the Park. This time, a brunette, a weight-whiner, though there seems to be little reason for this, and definitely funny and Jewish.

She begins her act by announcing that, in a similar vein to Rose-Marie, her songs will be self-critical of her choice of, and chances with, men.

Her first parody was Sixteen Going on Seventeen, by Rodgers and Hammerstein (I call them Dick and Oscar, the two things everyone in Hollywood wants). The song runs through the various ages of woman, in each decade or more, failing to score.

Then, after a bright parody of How Lovely to be a Woman from Bye Bye Birdie, here called How Lovely when News was Stupid, she abandons the format, preferring to give heavily accented show business and political references. The act remains very amusing, but I was sad at the departure from sexual failure, whether on her part or that of her partner. Almost surreally, in real life she is happy and fulfilled with a man she met on the Tube at Clapham.

The evening takes a further twist with the introduction of Ray Jessel, an ex-pat Taffy who is currently writing musicals for the theatre. After singing one of his ballads, Please Don't Let it be Love and joining him in a very funny duet, Something on the Side, both from his projected musical Moll Flanders, she briefly left the stage to him. True to the format, he parodied a typical Shirley Temple song, not of hope but the reverse; Life Sucks and then You Die.

The second set follows the pattern of the first and the evening is one I am glad I didn't miss. Shelly Goldstein is no wuss, she can belt with the best of them and has an endearing personality with a raspy, forked tongue when she needs it. It passed through my mind that she should have been playing the awful Cora in Anyone Can Whistle at The Bridewell. It would have been mutually beneficial.

She was more than capably complemented by Nigel Lilley on piano, making sure the evening went with a swing. One criticism, which applies to every act seen at the venue, either the curtains at Pizza on the Park are burned, or that little black dress goes. Light, frothy evenings do not need a setting reminiscent of Dis.

Alas, Miss Goldstein will have moved on by the time you read this, her engagement was for two nights only, but I am sure the audience at Pizza on the Park, 'hearing words they never heard before' or at least that they have not been used to hearing in that venue, will eagerly await her return.

Songs For Lovers and Those They've Dumped, written, compiled and performed by Shelly Goldstein with Ray Jessel. Musical Director Nigel Lilley. Presented in Larry's Room at Pizza on the Park, 11 Knightsbridge, London SW1. Tickets 020 7235 5273.

RELATED STORIES: Click here for Paul Nelson's preview of the evening...