Elaine Stritch: At Liberty [2002]

Star, legend, force of nature--whatever you call Elaine Stritch, it probably applies, and it's never more apparent than in her deeply personal one-woman show, At Liberty. With only an oversize shirt, black tights, and a chair, Stritch mesmerizes a full house at London's Old Vic Theatre with tales of her 50-plus-year career on stage and screen. It's a priceless glimpse of backstage theatre to hear her recount how she served as standby for Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam in New York at the same time she had a featured role in Pal Joey playing in New Haven, Connecticut. And she tells about the people she mingled with (Noel Coward, Judy Garland, Rock Hudson), her disappointments both professional ("I blew The Golden Girls!") and personal (her bouts with drinking). At Liberty is more of a monologue than a musical performance, though she does perform some of her signature songs like "Zip" and "The Ladies Who Lunch." At Liberty won a Tony Award in June 2002 for Special Theatrical Event, but Stritch's triumph was tempered when she was not allowed to complete her acceptance speech. Her response to it here is just one of the touching moments in a remembrance of a historic career. --David Horiuchi

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