Janice Crystal, Larry Magid, and Face Productions
Billy Crystal In 700 Sundays
Written by Billy Crystal
235 West 44th Street
Directed by Des McAnuff
Additional Material by Alan Zweibel
Scenic Design: David F. Weiner
Lighting Design: David Lee Cuthbert
Production Design: Michael Clark
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy, John Shivers
Clothing Stylist: David C. Woolard
Technical Supervisor: Don Gilmore-DSG Entertainment
Production Stage Manager: Lurie Horns Pffeffer
General Manager: Niko Companies, Ltd.
Company Manager: Brig Berney
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 15, 2004, Matinee
How often do we find ourselves sitting in a Broadway show with tears and laughter and memories of those relatives passed on, all at the same time? How often does an impish comedian, actor, raconteur, whom we already admire and love to see and hear, grace our lives for two hours in an emotionally riveting performance that is sometimes too close to home? Not that often. Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays (the counted Sundays in which he and his father were both alive and together, prior to the father’s death when he was just fifteen) brings us to a mirror of our own lives, for those of us who lost a parent, for those of us who were filmed in retro home movies, for those of us brought up in the suburbs, for those of us with less than “storybook” relatives, and for those of us who relate to all of the above.
There were many surprises in this two-act one-man show, if we did not already intimately know Billy Crystals’ family (his old friends from Long beach, LI, were seated in today’s audience), such as Billy’s close friendship with Billy Holiday, his father’s jazz concerts and jazz friends and jazz jams at Commodore Music Shop in Manhattan, his uncle’s jazz record label, his intimate friendship and reverence for the Yankees, his long, happy marriage to wife, Janice, and his new role as grandfather, his last words to both parents and surrounding circumstances, prior to their deaths, his grandfather’s and grandmother’s physical ailments, his siblings’ comedic, life events, and his obsession with his sex drive.
David Weiner’s set, a small cape house (thin walls, so he says) in Long Beach, LI, with a scrolled railing and screen door, with home movies against the windows: images of the old Plymouth Belvedere, images of jazz jams, images of Billy’s one-legged tap dances, images of the family Jewish Holidays and dinners, images of his sister’s home in Florida, images of the film Shane (seen on Billy Holiday’s lap) and images of his revered parents, is one of the most creatively conceived and compact sets in years, as it serves a multitude of purposes and projected vignettes. David Lee Cuthbert’s lighting for the infamous, pretend, filmed barbecue scene, as Billy recalls a favorite and colorful relative annoyed under the intruding lens, is split-second perfect, with flashing lights like the old 16mm movies.
Sound clips from meaningful songs and instrumentals wafted through the air to bring us back to the 50’s and 60’s, such as The Alley Cat, Memories of You, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Rachmaninoff’s exquisite Vocalise (played as Crystal spoke of his father’s sudden death in a bowling alley, just after Crystal’s unfortunate disagreement with his father). Additional sound clips accompanied his very emotional anecdotes of his mother’s death from stroke and her wish for his happiness in performance (today marked what was her birthday). Some of the clips were reminiscent of the jams at the Commodore, the jams at home, the jams at his father’s funeral, and the jams at his uncle Miltie’s (Gabler) recording studio.
We saw many sides, many moods, many physical feats (facial imitation of his birth and leaping, dancing around the stage), many lost and current relatives, many sports events (both amateur and pro), many jazz musicians, many family holidays and scenarios, many jokes, and many hidden tears. Crystal has the short, muscular, taut build to seize the entire stage with the outsized set and magnetize focus on him and his multitude of “secret” stories. When he became the Florida aunt, who relates a long tale of her daughter’s gay wedding, with dancing and reveling, and her husband’s comical adjustment to such a family challenge, he WAS that aunt.
In fact, the greatness of a one-man show is in the ability to leave the audience feeling and thinking that they, too, had just met the entire cast of family characters and that there had been many, not one, on that Broadway stage, and that we might all be in Long Beach, LI, chatting on the lawn. When Crystal brings us to present with comments on a new granddaughter, we spring from a time warp. Billy Crystal and Director, Des McAnuff, along with Alan Zweibel (who probably extended a few scenes to the utmost cry-ability or laugh-ability), have created a sell-out production. I did not see an empty seat. If you plan to see Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays at the Broadhurst Theatre, order tickets immediately.