By Myra Chanin
I arrived at Lane Bradbury’s one-woman show, Let Me Entertain You, Again, my heart filled with compassion for the child performer who’d created the role of Baby June in the original Broadway production of Gypsy — the tot forced to sing “Let Me Entertain You,” (8xy=z) times a week which made her the surefire winner of my Christian Martyr of the Century Award, only to learn that Lane Bradbury played Dainty June, the teen-aged rebellious survivor of Mama Rose’s ambition. Dainty June had better songs: “Broadway,” and “If Momma Was Married.” She was “the girl” Tulsa sang about in “All I Need is the Girl,” who eloped with him at the end of Act One and re-appeared stage center for curtain calls.
Lane Bradbury describes herself as very shy during her Buckhead, Georgia childhood – a lonely child who lived in her imagination. She felt like an unpopular outsider during her adolescence. At the age of five she found joy in her ballet classes and was asked to join the Atlanta Ballet Corps when she was only 12. Lane was not particularly successful academically either. She didn’t exactly graduate. Her school gave her a certificate of completion so she could move on and she did to New York, where she made friends and soon became the youngest ever member of the Actor’s Studio – a real coup.
Legendary director Elia Kazan discovered her there and in 1958 cast her as an understudy in Archibald MacLeish’s drama J.B. about the sufferings of the Job. JB ran for a year and gave Lane Broadway credits. The following year she auditioned for Gypsy but someone else got the part. But never say die. The favorite didn’t work out, and Lane joined the cast during its Philadelphia tryouts. She played Dainty June on Broadway for six months. She was fired when her six-month contract expired. She doesn’t say why, but she and Jerome Robbins didn’t get along. She also opened on Broadway in Tennessee Williams Night of the Iguana which starred Bette Davis before moving to Hollywood where her impressive film and TV credits included Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore.
At Don’t Tell Mama, her musical director Joe Goodrich supplied her with sensational arrangements, a helping baritone for her “If Mama Was Married” duet along with a wry, witty and varied selection of songs: Styne/Sondheim’s “Broadway” to The Teen Queens hit, “Eddie, My Love,” to Cole Porter’s “Maiden Typical of France,” plus two numbers written or tweaked especially for her: an original Jan Roper song about wearing the same gown she wore as an Atlanta Debutante to a fancy Manhattan film opening and a new set of lyrics about Atlanta Society set to a Frederic Loewe melody, penned by her daughter Elkin Antoniou, who also directed this show written by Doug DeVita.
Bradbury’s voice is still a strong, commanding Broadway contralto, and she’s very endearing on stage. She has fun with the comic songs, particularly “Eddie, My Love,” a writhing homage to the sexpot to whom she gave her virtue over and over and who rejected her over and over because he just didn’t love her enough.
I wanted more details about what being on stage with Ethel and Bette and all the other stars she worked with was like and fewer about that no-goodnick Eddie, who just wasn’t worth three songs. One would have more than sufficed. She never gave us any information about what he was like, why she was so taken by him and what happened to him, which might have piqued my interest. She also mentioned her husband very briefly. Her story telling skills lacked razzamatazz, but surely an easy fix.
Lane’s show is obviously a work in progress. It would be interesting to see how it changes and improves when Lane Bradbury unveils it again on Thursday June 29th at 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama.
Don’t Tell Mama 343 West 46th St. New York, NY(212) 757-0788