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A delightful ‘Evening’ with Klugman

Maurice Barnfather

There is something ineffably sad about a star who, getting older and

twinkling less brightly, retires to the one-person show and to a life

laid out in anecdotes. Not so “An Evening with Jack Klugman,” which

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opened a five-week run at Burbank’s Falcon Theatre Saturday.

He may be 81 years old and an almost permanent fixture on

television with seemingly endless reruns of “Quincy, M.E.” and “The

Odd Couple,” but after a long showbiz life, this all-conquering

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Jewish boy from Philadelphia who ran numbers as a kid, is still on

his toes.

This evening was a captivating celebration of Klugman’s theatrical

virtuosity, epitomizing the mysterious duality of his craft: great

actor and matchless comic observer.

Klugman, who has successfully battled throat cancer opens with a

voice that sounds as if it’s escaping through a mouthful of bagels.

He jokes about this, telling us that his voice gets stronger the

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longer he speaks, while warning, with a twinkle in his eye, that “it

doesn’t get any prettier.”

Actually, it does. After the brief introduction from Klugman, the

lights dim and we are treated to hysterically funny out takes from

“The Odd Couple.” Later, we see his fine movie acting in clips from

“Twelve Angry Men,” (on screen with Henry Fonda), “Days of Wine and

Roses” (Jack Lemmon) and “I Could Go on Singing” (Judy Garland).

But this magical evening belongs to the flesh-and-blood Klugman,

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who draws his audience up close and personal in this stunningly

beautiful theater. Giving a master class in economic expressiveness,

where the most effortless inflections often produce the biggest

laughs, he recalls that Humphrey Bogart always finished last when

racing his yacht because, he confided to Klugman: “I stop in every

port to stock up on booze. I finish last, but a happy last.”


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