Dolores Gray’s big, belting voice and larger-than-life presentation are almost too overwhelming to be contained in a nightclub setting.
Wednesday night, in the opening performance of a two-week engagement at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Cinegrill, the musical star of both Broadway and MGM musicals sometimes seemed to be focusing her projection--successfully--on the farther reaches of West Hollywood.
Looking good, with both her wit and her singing in fine fettle, Gray’s only problem was a clear absence of much rehearsal time. Accompanist William Roy--always impeccably accurate--was repeatedly called on to restart a tune or provide a forgotten line.
But that’s a minor carp for a performer who brings a wealth of experience, skill and professionalism to virtually everything she touches.
Curiously, and despite her obvious ability to sell a song with all the vigor and enthusiasm of an Ethel Merman revisited, Gray was at her best on two relatively low-key numbers, “I’m All Smiles” (from “The Yearling”) and “Here’s That Rainy Day” (introduced by Gray in the ill-fated “Carnival in Flanders”).
Less appealing was a far too long segment devoted to several utterly vapid songs from her film version of “Kismet.”
She peaked with a stunning interpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here"--a piece that is becoming a virtual warhorse for maturing nightclub singers. In Gray’s hands it became a startlingly new experience, reflective, perhaps of her many performances of the song during a recent run in the London production of “Follies.”
Gray continues at the Cinegrill through Saturday night and returns next Wednesday through March 18.