Show Stories with Ed Dixon

Ed Dixon

 

 

by Alix Cohen

 

Ed Dixon’s fifty plus years as a well traveled actor of diverse talent has reaped a wealth of lively experience. His translation of this into brief O’Henryish anecdotes presented with self effacing humor and theatrical timing creates an enjoyable evening. Dixon clearly loves the life to which he’s committed. He renders its ridiculous aspects with frustration and/or glee, its pathos with sensitivity, and savors every moment.

We open with complete stranger, va-va-voom girl, Virginia Martin (who?) leaning back over her bus seat, launching into a joke involving a BBC show whose “secret phrase was big black penis.” The hello/goodbye turned out to be just that. And she wasn’t even on his tour!

An evocative story centers on No, No Nanette which the revival company collectively thought “the biggest bombshell…We were all looking for other jobs…Busby Berkeley was senile and Ruby (Keeler) hadn’t made a movie since 1941.” Half a million dollars in sets and costumes couldn’t, they believed, make up for what the show lacked. Much to everyone’s shock (Dixon puts us backstage), from Boston tryout on, the musical was an enormous hit. This pithy tale includes inebriation, the mafia, and Bobby Van’s losing it onstage.

 

 

Dixon was a soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass which celebrated the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The elaborate production sounds worthy of DW Griffith. His audition is reenacted, contact with “one of the most famous men in the country at the time” (Bernstein) described. Aggregate tears flow at dress rehearsal. We get a glimpse into the great man’s character and Dixon’s reactions.

Candid about his early lack of sophistication and sexuality, gimlet-eyed and wry, the storyteller continues. There’s the ignominious Cyrano, the Musical, stepping in for an ailing Charles Durning in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (preceded by a chance to use his native Texas accent as a senator), and a vignette about appearing with Ann Margaret in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas that ranges from droll and preposterous to moving.

There’s Tony Randall’s National Theater production of Persians with an incisive indication of his character, delicate interaction with Julie Harris, parentheses with Marian Seldes, Comden and Green, Stephen Sondheim (including his unexpected reaction to Bernstein’s Mass), Burt Shevalove, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and a few well-earned jabs at our current “orange shit bag.”

“It was the best of times and sometimes not, but it was always interesting.”

Caveats: This piece would be more successful with a Director. Many of Dixon’s prominent show biz denizens sound exactly the same- loud, gruff; exaggerated. His own youthful voice (in his 20s) oddly emerges as a wispy soprano. The device may be an effort to show naiveté, but is unnecessary (writing and acting ably serve) and awkward. Additionally, outside the savvy audience Dixon gathered last night, some of those featured will be unknown. A line of explanation might be constructively woven in.

 

 

Ed Dixon won the 2017 Drama Desk award for Georgie, My Adventures with George Rose which he wrote and in which he starred. It was marvelous.

 

Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

 

Show Stories with Ed Dixon

The Green Room 42 in Yotel Hotel, 10th Avenue  & 42nd Street

December 12, 2019

Venue Calendar https://www.onfournyc.com/tickets.html

 

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