John & Donald Mills; Kay Starr

Donald Mills, the only surviving member of the four original Mills Bros., has teamed with his son John to continue the family's legendary tradition of smooth, classy harmonies. Surprisingly, the mere duo quite effectively recalls the glory days (or rather, glory decades) of the distinctive quartet --- and in the process perpetuates the appeal of its singular sound. With the great dignity and good humor that were hallmarks of the original group, 82-year-old Donald gamely shows that he's still up to it with solo moments throughout the set. And for his part, Mills fils fills some very difficult shoes outstandingly.

With:
Performers: John Mills, Donald Mills, Kay Starr. Band: Buddy Freed; Don Bagley; Steve Pemberton. Opened and reviewed Aug. 19, 1997; runs through Aug. 30.

Highlights include “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” a sassy “Glow Worm” and a charming rendition of “Basin Street Blues,” in which voices doubled as musical instruments — a gimmick on which the Mills Bros. group was founded in the 1920s.

Also offered was a pleasant (and congruent) new number penned by John, “Still … There’s You,” the title song from a new Mills CD.

Co-billed Kay Starr, whose 1952 chestnut “Wheel of Fortune” is featured on the soundtrack of the upcoming pic “L.A. Confidential,” held forth for the first half of the program.

Peppy and engaging, Starr wrapped her smoky voice with its sax-like tone around an assortment of tunes ranging from her hits (“You’ve Got to See Mama Ev’ry Night,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Waltz,” “Wheel”) to a smidgen of country (“Crazy”) to ’50s rock (“Great Balls of Fire,” “I’m Walkin’ ” and “Rock Around the Clock”).

In a meant-to-be-humorous moment with which she seemed more than a tad uncomfortable, she even tried her hand at rap.

While Starr’s pipes are surely more mature than in her heyday, she remains a distinguished and affecting stylist with an impressive instrument. And she handled her onstage banter chores with aplomb.

An encore uniting the Millses with Starr on “Up the Lazy River” proved a festive capper for the evening.

The Buddy Freed Trio nicely accomped both acts.

John & Donald Mills; Kay Starr

Cinegrill; 150 seats; $20 cover

Production: Presented inhouse.

Cast: Performers: John Mills, Donald Mills, Kay Starr. Band: Buddy Freed; Don Bagley; Steve Pemberton. Opened and reviewed Aug. 19, 1997; runs through Aug. 30.

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