Attendance at Lu Leonard’s one-woman reminiscence of life with her vaudevillian parents should be required of every young actor who comes to Hollywood believing that a career begins and ends with landing a regular spot on the next TV sitcom. It is not merely because Leonard is a gifted comedic actress; this lady is primary source material, a living memory bank that has total recall to the roots of her profession.
Leonard conjures up the world of the early 20th century thespian as represented by her parents, Amy Florence Goodman and “Happy” Hal Price. The two met as young actors, fell in love on stage and moved forward with marriage and parenthood without a pause in their careers.
Their child, Lu Ann, was simply whisked along on an unending road of bookings that ranged from tent shows to legit houses, from Long Island to Hollywood, from the height of vaudeville to its demise during the Depression.
It is the history of her parents’ lifelong love affair with each other and their profession that Leonard brings to such vivid life, aided immeasurable by the on-stage presence of pianist/music director Greg Schreiner and the keen eye of director/producer David Galligan.
Goodman was an elegant actress/singer who could never resist making a dramatic entrance or exit. Leonard’s father, “Happy” Hal, did a bit of everything on stage and had a unique ability to improvise or “fake it.” The show’s rather awkward subtitle refers to a bit of stage business during which Leonard’s father was supposed to be shot. When Hal observed that his assailant forgot to bring a gun onstage, the resourceful Hal shoved a fingernail file in his mouth and screamed in deathly agony, “My God, I swallowed the file!”
Leonard also introduces a whole menagerie of vaudeville folk, including the sometimes unreliable advance man; Amy, the Song Bird of the South, who hailed from South Philadelphia; and the garlic-loving Hungarian acrobats who always opened the show because they were a “dumb” act (non-vocal) that could warm up the house while the audience got seated.
The child, Lu Ann, is definitely a minor character in this shimmering journey into the past. Leonard alludes to herself as a very lucky spectator of a unique world. With a sense of longing and sadness she describes the demise of vaudeville and her parents’ move to Hollywood, where her mother retired and her father established himself as a popular character actor.