The Tom Judson Show
The Peter O’Toole-Petula Clark film musical of Goodbye, Mr. Chips has at least two fans. I am one of them, but Tom Judson pulled the ace by performing a song from the Leslie Bricusse score that I had no idea existed. The M.O., as he calls it, of his cabaret act now at New Conservatory Theatre Center is obscure songs from well-known sources. It’s a 70-minute mini-treasure trove for fans of musicals and film scores, as the handsome and personable performer weaves in entertaining anecdotes of varying relevancy as he robustly accompanies himself at the piano.
While Judson’s career has included film and theater songwriting, singing and dancing on Broadway, a two-year jaunt as a porn star, and his current cabaret profile, this is not a heavily autobiographical show as was the case in his solo show Canned Ham. While there are personal stories, The Tom Judson Show is mostly about the songs - songs you may have never heard before, but are definitely worth lending an ear.
is part of the fun of the show, as Judson reveals a song’s source after its performance. I don’t want to give much away, but I’ll cite my favorite example: It’s a song with touches of Cole Porter and Noel Coward, as the lyrics start by extolling the wonders of a summer day before the narrator increasingly seeks out another cocktail as he descends, amusingly but also a little worrisomely, into an alcoholic haze. The composer, Judson reveals to the audience’s audible surprise, was Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the song "Summer Day" with Alan Ayckbourn for Jeeves, his big-flop follow-up to Jesus Christ Superstar.
Judson can also take us down curious lanes of movie-music trivia. From director Leo McCarey’s 1939 movie Love Affair, Judson performs the charmingly simple "Wishing" that Irene Dunne sings to a group of orphans. When McCarey remade the movie in 1957 as An Affair to Remember, the director, now a rabid anti-communist, supplied the lyrics for a new song that Deborah Kerr trills to the orphans. "The song is a little repressive, with hints of surveillance," Judson says, before performing "Tiny Scout." A sampling of the lyrics: "Listen to the tiny scout. He knows you inside, he knows you outside. You’re on the mean side, he’s on the clean side." And then to complete the circle, Judson notes that the film was remade yet again as the critically reviled Love Affair with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. He didn’t see it, but since the music was by the estimable Ennio Morricone, he interpolates a piece of that score into the medley.
Judson has a charming way with this kind of arcana, and the journey can easily veer from Henry Mancini to Art Garfunkel. There are often some light autobiographical connections to the stories and songs, but he gets poignantly personal in a remembrance of a road trip he made with his late husband. The monologue, he reveals, is adapted from his recently published collection of essays titled Laid Bare.
But mostly Judson’s show is a wry and humorous affair, and his good spirits are summed up in one of his own compositions. "Your Best Suit" has the kind of Jerry Herman optimism that leaves you with a smile on your face as you scuttle back into the real world.
The Tom Judson Show will run through May 12 at New Conservatory Theatre Center. Tickets are $31-$36. Call 861-8972 or go to www.nctcsf.org.