Lee Roy Reams: Song and Dance Man

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Lee Roy Reams

Song and Dance Man

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, June 9, 2016

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Lee-Roy-Reams-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212It’s Gay Pride Month here in San Francisco, so what better way to usher in the festivities than seeing Lee Roy Reams at Feinstein’s. Back in the day, there was such a thing as “song-and-dance men” or “hoofers”—George M Cohan, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Sammy Davis, Jr.

come to mind. Reams, hailed as “Broadway’s song and dance man nonpareil” by The New York Times, certainly comes from that lineage, with a pedigree of Broadway, nightclub and television shows that few can match.

Sharing songs and telling fascinating stories from his five-decade career is what Reams does excellently.

Alone on the stage with piano accompanist James Followell, Reams is charming and vivacious as he walks the audience through the chronology of his successes—from nightclub dancing with friend Juliet Prowse to his first Broadway break with Sweet Charity in 1966 with the legendary Gwen Verdon to his role as Albin/Zaza in La Cage aux Folles in 1983 to 1998’s An Evening with Jerry Herman.

It all started as a precocious child by taking dance lessons in Covington, Kentucky.
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“The Johnson Rag” (Guy Hall/Henry Kleinkauf/Jack Lawrence) is old-time shtick that defines the very essence of the song-and-dance man.  A mini-tribute to some Irving Berlin ballads, written about his wife Ellen Mackie, begins with heartfelt versions of Sondheim’s “Pretty Women” from Sweeney Todd followed by Berlin’s “All Alone,” What’ll I Do?,” “Remember” and “Always”.

A funny medley from Sweet Charity—“Big Spender,” “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now”—is linked to phenomenal backstories of Gwen Verdon and Dorothy Fields. In fact, every song in his set is introduced with intimate remembrances of his storied past: his big break and subsequent friendship with Juliet Prowse, parties with Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, and his many Broadway roles (42nd Street, The Producers, Hello, Dolly!, Applause, La Cage aux Folles, and Sweet Charity) and television dancing appearances (The Ed Sullivan Show, The Gary Moore Show, The Bob Hope Show).

The young boy from Kentucky is now a living legacy of the golden age of entertainment.
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Re-creating one of his many signature numbers, Reams dons a huge red boa and shows exactly how it’s done on “La Cage aux Folles,” written by his friend Jerry Herman. Lee Roy Reams is a rare bird indeed, a link to a glorious past and a mentor to upcoming performers eager to learn their chops.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.