Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lewis, audience love each other

Cleveland Press June 29, 1971

Last night at a sauna bath otherwise known as Musicarnival Jerry Lewis and Helen O'Connel perspired for the people.

Lewis, moving around as though he were committed to setting some kind of track record, couldn't have had more moisture streaming off of his face if he had been caught in a cloudburst.

Whatever else characterizes the Lewis act -- and it is difficult to put in any one category -- it certainly smacks of energy. He jokes, sings, quips, dances, prances, poses for pictures, talks to his audience, jokes with them,insults them then apologizes, chases up the aisle, races around the edge of the stage, coaxes laughs out of them like a parent coaxing a child.

It is a two-way love affair and there is nothing he does that his audience doesn't love. For this is clearly his audience, a gathering of Lewis admirers.

TRYING TO sit back and be objective (a difficult thing), one might say that the material is uneven except that the laughter wasn't uneven: it was continuous.

Lewis claimed prior to coming here that this is not a night club act. It is and it isn't. It looks like a saloon act that is undergoing changes. Maybe it is different from what it was in Miami and maybe tomorrow it will be different from last night.

It still is not tailor-made for an audience of parents and children, which is what the audience was last night. Nothing too terrible, nothing his fans will be too upset over, but some things he wouldn't do on television.

HE COMES on and goes off with his signature tune, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby." In between there are impressions of a Spanish singer, an ex-fighter who sings but needs a bell to keep him going, a gyrating rock singer. He pantomimes all the instruments in the band, later picks up a trumpet and plays it. He tries to do tricks with a cane -- tricks that go wrong.

In trying to get audience participation in a song he ran into several self-styled comics who tried to upstage him. Must have been the heat.

Since his fans had come to see Lewis the man as much as Lewis the performer there probably no moments when performer and audience were closer than when he just chatted with them about his family. Clearly the whole Jerry Lewis phenomenon is one great big love between him and followers.

HELEN O'CONNELL had the difficult job of opening the show. It was difficult because the heat of the day was still well trapped under the Musicarnival tent.

There was constant movement around her as members of the audience fanned themselves vigorously with their programs.

Miss O'Connell is a flawless singer with a respect for a lyric. What else can you say about her? She is joy to listen to and wonderful to watch.

Sure she recalled the Jimmy Dorsey days with old songs and "Amapola' and "Tangerine" and that great two-tempo style that still gives you goose bumps. But she doesn't rely on nostalgia. She's out there with the new stuff, ready to be judged on more than old time's sake.

Was she really singing those songs 30 years ago? From three rows back she didn't look more than 25.