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Live Review: Carol Burnett @ Chicago Theatre

| May 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

Carol Burnett 2

Carol Burnett
Chicago Theatre                                                                                                                                                                                           May 17, 2016

With 11 seasons and 279 episodes of The Carol Burnett Show to her credit, plus a fertile career on Broadway, in movies, music and books, the show’s namesake isn’t just the queen of sketch comedy, but also one of the world’s most enduring all-around entertainers. Even at 83, the multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner is still hitting the road on a regular basis, stopping by the equally historic Chicago Theatre on Tuesday night in a series of sold out engagements that continues Thursday and Friday.

Billed as “An Evening Of Laughter And Reflection,” the sequined blue jacket-clad Burnett blended classic clips with live action comedy, often times taking completely unscripted questions from the audience and coming across just as sharp she did during the golden age of television. One of the first comments came from a Canadian woman who drove 12 hours for the lifelong bucket list opportunity, but rather than truly zinging Burnett with a stumper, she simply thanked her for bringing healing to so many through her comedy.

It was a sentiment shared by the several thousand gathered, who on a lighter note, asked her everything from what period of life she’d like to relive (her 40s), to how it feels to be a redhead (she’s a fake, so she can’t say for sure) and a call to reprise her signature Tarzan yell. She obliged, but first told a drop dead hysterical story about darting into a ritzy New York department store to buy some stockings prior to a recent television appearance. While she was shopping, the clerk asked her to sign several autographs, though when it came time to pay, had the gall to ask Burnett for identification. After laughing at the irony, she realized her ID was at the hotel, so the only proof she could offer was that yelp at the top of her lungs, which resulted in an armed guard popping out of a side door and drawing his gun over the disturbance!

When Burnett wasn’t talking about the perils of last minute hosiery purchases, she was reminiscing about the show’s uproarious co-stars (Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence) and countless celebrity guests (Lucille Ball, Julie Andrews, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Steve Martin, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli and The Carpenters, to name a mere handful). Cher kept coming up in the conversation, prompting Burnett to quip “we had the same measurements, but not in that order” to thunderous laughter, along with an aside that their shared designer Bob Mackie made more than 17,000 costumes for the TV show.

Occasionally fans’ inquiries turned frivolous and selfish, such as asking for an autograph or wanting to be wished “happy birthday,” but Burnett was a consummate pro in all cases and politely honored every last request. A much more useful question came from a showbiz hopeful asking for guidance on how to break through, to which her instant mentor replied “have faith in yourself, a fire in the belly and don’t get discouraged if you’re not the type they’re looking for.”

Perhaps it was Burnett’s ability to take her very own advice that’s allowed her to thrive for well over half a century, and with continuous traveling plus another new book on the way, she doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Though no two shows could ever be the same given this current season’s format, she did close singing the familiar sounds of the program’s finale “So Long,” which coupled with the wit and candor demonstrated across the prior 90 minutes, clearly had the audience agreeing “I’m so glad we had this time together” as they sung in step with its legendary leader.

-Review by Andy Argyrakis


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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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