Just Jim Dale

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Just Jim Dale

Just Jim Dale. Laura Pels Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Jim Dale. Directed by Richard Maltby Jr. With Dale. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission.

Just Jim Dale: In brief

His appearances on Broadway and Off have grown rarer in recent years, but English triple threat Jim Dale will always be remembered for his swaggering bravura turn in the title role of Barnum (which won him the 1980 Tony). The old dog teaches us a few new tricks in this autobiographical variety show made of stories, songs and fancy footwork.

Just Jim Dale: Theater review by Adam Feldman

Who says you can’t do it all? The consummate English-American song-and-dance man Jim Dale is familiar from his many Broadway appearances, which have earned him five Tony nominations, including a win as the title huckster in the 1980 musical Barnum; and modern youngsters may recognize his voice(s) from the audio versions of the Harry Potter books. But did you know—I admit, I did not—that Dale started out as a ballet dancer? (Movement, he says, is “the secret of all theater.”) Or that he toured England with a teenage music-hall act, and was groomed as a pop star by a pre-Beatles George Martin, and wrote the lyrics to the 1966 hit “Georgy Girl”?

Just Jim Dale, his remarkable one-man variety show, takes a fond look back at the star’s polymorphic career in an evening that (as the title implies) balances confident show-offery with a hint of working-class-kid self-effacement. Now in his late seventies, Dale treads lightly and spryly—he remains an extraordinary dancer—through the steps of his life, with material that ranges from time-tested jokes and ditties to full numbers (including Barnum’s tongue-torturing “Museum Song”), plus monologues and anecdotes. Much of the show is proudly old hat, but Dale tips that derby with aplomb; as in a classic bookstore or antique shop, a hint of dust is part of the charm.—Theater review by Adam Feldman

THE BOTTOM LINE A first-rate showman makes a show of himself.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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