Anybody who’s seen Martin Short’s shorts — “Scenes From an Idiot’s Marriage,” in which he parodies his hero Jerry Lewis as directed by Ingmar Bergman, or “I Married Monty,” a hilarious take on ’50s family sitcoms starring Short’s version of Montgomery Clift — knows this unique talent’s capacity for genius.
At the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Saturday night, the multi-disciplined comedian revealed flashes of that genius during “An Evening with Martin Short & the Glendale Pops,” sharing the stage with the remarkably nimble orchestra conducted by Matt Catingub.
Billed as the grand reopening of the Alex after a $6 million backstage expansion, the show was kicked off by Cattingub & Co. with a trio of numbers that displayed the band’s versatility and foreshadowed the retro sensibility of the evening, a kind of one-man Rat Pack Vegas review. Whether it was the Jones/Cahn standard “It Had to Be You” or a jazzed-up version of Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” the Glendale Pops turned the clock back to a time when Nelson Riddle and Count Basie led bands that backed the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, another Short hero.
“I can’t tell you how humble your response makes a huge star like me feel,” quipped Short after he opened with the kind of song-and-dance number usually performed by a rising talent hosting their first TV special.
On the amazingly fit L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti: “He’s so boyish at first I thought he was Rachel Maddow”; on the advice that Donnie Osmond gave him about working with an orchestra: “Always leave the audience wanting less”; on disgraced NBA owner Donald Sterling: “He’s the only one who watches ’12 Years a Slave’ backwards because he’s a sucker for happy endings.” Short then called attention to that most annoying of phrases invoked at awards shows: “I’d like to tell you a little bit about my life, or ‘my journey’ as they like to say.”
Yes, it all had the feeling of schtick, but it’s the Tony- and Emmy-winning performer’s delivery that gives it the comic punch it needs. It also serves notice to awards show producers out there that Short can not only sing and dance as well as Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris, but his comedy can be edgy without being offensive.
And yes there was room for some of the characters Short has brought to life with such skewering invention, like his clueless, self-absorbed celebrity gadfly Jiminy Glick.
“Where were you when the queen killed Diana?” he asked a young actress brought out for the occasion. And so it went, the audience in stitches and Short in seeming cruise control. Not a bad way to christen the new space. Now if the Alex and Glendale Arts can keep the ball rolling with such singular talent, the future looks promising.