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Jerry Lewis … Unlimited

The multimedia affair, which until now has been playing to small-town America , spotlights the onscreen and onstage talents of the legendary comic who has starred in 51 films and raised billions for charity. It's a show that thrives on saccharine sentimentality and sarcastic abuse.

With:
Las Vegas slick and Borscht Belt shtick come together in the 2 1/2 hour national touring concert "Jerry Lewis ... Unlimited," which opened Saturday for the first of two performances at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

The multimedia affair, which until now has been playing to small-town America , spotlights the onscreen and onstage talents of the legendary comic who has starred in 51 films and raised billions for charity. It’s a show that thrives on saccharine sentimentality and sarcastic abuse.

“Unlimited” is right. Every element of this show seems unlimited: The length (especially without an intermission); the stream of corny, abusive, racially tinged jokes; the song-and-dance numbers; even the grainy film clips.

Then there’s the uncomfortable Vegas showroom-style Q&A period with the audience — which inevitably seems to end with Lewis referring to his adoring (ticket-buying) fans as “shmucks,””broads” and “idiots.”

Lewis does two dance numbers when one would make the point, sings two songs, tells two jokes, etc., etc.

The concept that less is more clearly has never occurred to Lewis — perhaps the result of too many years of endless telethons.

Say what you will, the audience seems to love it all. They laugh with abandon at the most tired jokes: “What’s a wrench? It’s a place where Jewish cowboys go.”

They reverently cherish the film clips from “The Bell Boy,””Cinderfella” or “The Nutty Professor,” as well as a set of greatest hits from the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. They goo-goo over pictures of Lewis’ recently born daughter.

They even clap and cheer at every putdown: An attractive woman tells him that it’s been a lifelong wish to see him in person. To which he responds, “I’m in Room 134 at the Sheraton. Come up after the show and we’ll make it come true.” He then turns and quips to the boys in the band, “That’s the broad I’ve been telling you about. There’s enough for everyone!”

In the end, a loyal fan seated nearby points out to his wife: “People don’t realize. It’s not a matter of what he’s like now. You have to appreciate him for what he was.” Maybe.

Popular on Variety

Jerry Lewis ... Unlimited

(Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts; 1,450 seats; $ 42 top)

Production: Presented by the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and Columbia Artists Management.

Creative: Musical director, Lou Brown. Opened and reviewed Oct. 23, 1993.

Cast: Las Vegas slick and Borscht Belt shtick come together in the 2 1/2 hour national touring concert "Jerry Lewis ... Unlimited," which opened Saturday for the first of two performances at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

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