downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 19 | September 22 - 28, 2006

theater

Sally Sherwood and the fab tour of vaudevilleSeaport Museum receives Andrea Doria medallion

By JERRY TALLMER

Sally Sherwood thinks of it as a class in History that she’ll be conducting from the stage of the Shooting Star Theatre at the South Street Seaport. “Good Bye, My Lady Love” is the name of the class.

“I like History,” says songstress Sherwood. “These four women were modern women. They did their own work, and not in a factory. They had many spouses. They had their own publicity machines.”

“Yes,” says pianist Woody Regan, listening in. “Like Anna Held and her milk baths.”

Anna Held! Just a nice Jewish girl from Poland who by sheer willpower made herself into a French girl, singing on the streets of Paris. Will you do her in a French accent, Ms. Sherwood?

“Mais oui, Monsieur,” says Sally Sherwood pertly, if perhaps a touch less dramatique-ly than Louise Rainer (a nice Jewish girl from Austria) as Anna Held in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936), breaking hearts all over America and snaring an Oscar as, through stifled tears, she gaily tells her beloved Flo (Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, a/k/a William Powell) how happy she is about what she’s just come upon in the newspaper, his surprise marriage to Billie Burke (Myrna Loy).

“Anna Held was so famous for batting her eyes that Ziegfeld had a poster made just of those eyes,” Ms. Sherwood wants us to know. “She’s the last of the four in the show because I come on wearing four costumes, one atop the other, and hers is the thinnest one, thus the last. The first to come on is pantalooned Lillian Russell with the golden bicycle given her by Diamond Jim Brady.”

The four women, then, of “Good Bye, My Lady Love” — fabled turn-of-century vaudeville stars of the music halls — are Lillian Russell (1860-1922), Anna Held (1872-1918), Blanche Ring (1877-1961), and Eva Tanguay, the Quebec-born “I Don’t Care” girl (1879-1947), who went so far as to simulate orgasm on stage.

“Tanguay was loud, noisy, brazen,” says Sally Sherwood. “I see her as the Madonna of her times, though not as talented as Madonna. When Tanguay portrayed Salome, she later boasted that her costume was two beads.” 

“Blanche Ring is the one I’d never heard of,” Woody Regan throws in.

“Her two big hits were ‘Come, Josephine, in My Flying Machine’ and ‘Rings on My Fingers, Bells on My Toes.’ She was,” says Ms. Sherwood, “one of the first people to get an audience to sing along with her.”

In “Good Bye, My Lady Love” you can be sure Sally Sherwood does just that.

“What I wanted to do was to bring out who, in show business, best represented, in an iconic way, the era between the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.”

Ms. Sherwood looks upon the well-endowed Lillian Russell as the “fulcrum” of the whole thing. “Here’s the premise, to justify having these four women on stage at the same time: There’s going to be a gala tribute to Lillian Russell, and George M. McClellan, Jr. [mayor of New York City, 1904-1909] introduces the proceedings.”

The mayor is played by William K. Brown, who happens to be executive director of Montauk (L.I.) Productions, which first presented “Good Bye, My Lady Love” at this same Shooting Star in 1999; the director of “Good Bye, My Lady Love” is Anita Brown, who is his wife.

Sally Sherwood was born in Cleveland, Ohio, “in the 20th century — the late 20th century” — and brought up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “in the latter half of the 20th century.” When she was nine years old, her parents sent her to acting school at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Woody Regan, son of a Navy man, was born and brought up in Dallas, Texas, where at age nine, inspired by his piano-playing grandmother, he started hitting the keys of that device. “How could she do all that? Sometimes playing the black keys, sometimes playing the white.”

He has over the years been accompanist to many top divas of cabaret, most recently Peggy Pope. He and Ms. Sherwood — who originally met in a class taught by Rita Gardner at the HB Studio on Bank Street — have worked together for a long time. They both live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, though not together. Ms. Sherwood lives with husband Geoffrey Horlick and daughter Anne, 16. Woody Regan lives with a cat of the black persuasion.

“Good Bye, My Lady Love” was an idea that sprang into the head of actress Sherwood when her singing teacher, Anthony Bellov, asked her to deliver a lecture on a topic of her own choosing at the Abigail Adams Smith Museum on East 61st Street.

Anna Held died of cancer at 46. Flo Ziegfeld did not come to her funeral. I don’t care, Eva Tanguay would have said.

 GOOD BYE, MY LADY LOVE. Created and performed by Sally Sherwood, with Woody Regan at the piano. Directed by Anita Brown. Costumes by Jennifer Grambs. September 27, 28, 29, October 5, 6, 7 at the Shooting Star Theatre, 40 Peck Slip, South Street Seaport, $20. All performances 8 p.m. Reservations essential: (718) 852-7771.



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