When Rich Little entertains, he brings a room full of people with him.
On Saturday night, this consummate entertainer, whose career has spanned
several decades, brought his popular Las Vegas show to the Edgerton Center stage at Sacred Heart University.
In his introduction, the theater's executive director Jerry Goehring said Little told him, “Don't worry, I'll be bringing lots of celebrities with me.”
He wasn't kidding.
Embodying the persona of Jimmy Stewart, Little recounts highlights from the actor's stellar and prolific career in which he starred in 89 films. Of course, when Stewart's life intersects with a fellow actor—Clark Gable, Jack Lemmon, and so on—or a known director—think Alfred Hitchcock—Little pauses to introduce him to
the Fairfield audience.
Through spot-on impressions, where he matches vocal styles and pitches, along with face contortions and body transformations that leave no doubt whom he is representing, Little keenly conveys 31 movie stars, political figures and celebrity
personalities. Among those joining Little onstage this weekend were Jack Benny, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Gary Cooper and Louie Armstrong.Katharine "Kate" Hepburn even makes a brief appearance!
Beginning with Stewart's entree as a New York stage actor, sharing an apartment
with another up and coming actor, Henry Fonda—whom Little, of course, nails perfectly—Stewart's biography doubles as a chronicle of early Hollywood.
After dutifully accepting thunderous applause and a standing ovation from Saturday night's crowd, comprised mostly of seniors, Little spoke candidly, in his own voice, about his concept for this show. He admits that the material goes
“wa-a-a back” to the early days of MGM Studio where Stewart was signed. “Thank you for being good listeners,” Little said.
One of the show-stopping moments is Little's take on Andy Rooney. Pacing
back and forth, Little imitates Rooney in an open-ended riff about non-related topics. His one-liners had the audience howling with laughter.
One of my favorite moments occurred when Little sang a snippet of “What a Wonderful World” in the exact style and voice of the legendary Louie Armstrong.
Little's appearance on the Sacred Heart stage was, in fact, part of the
American Legends program. Actress and singer Carol Channing is
scheduled to appear on Saturday, October 20. This weekend Mary Wilson
of The Supremes will perform Motown tunes.
By the way, Little received his second standing ovation at the conclusion of his talk-back with the audience. Reluctant to have the night end, they once again leapt to their feet and applauded wildly. Little said that if he continues to receive this kind of response, he will bring "Jimmy Stewart and Friends" to Broadway.
For more information about upcoming events at Sacred Heart University, go
to www.edgertoncenter.org. The Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts is at 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, Ct. Telephone: (203) 371-7908.