Alright, so Applause isn’t exactly brilliance. In fact, considering the rather leaden Encores! concert from last season, it’s far from it. However, what is brilliance is Penny Fuller’s interpretation of the role of Eve. In fact, it is the only thing that keeps the telemovie version of the musical afloat. (From what I’ve been told, Tony winner Lauren Bacall was worlds better live in performance than she is here). For as much as I enjoy the film, I feel after having seen the Eves of Anne Baxter, Penny Fuller and Little Evie – er Erin Davie… that Fuller best encapsulates the character. She only gets to sing two numbers, including this ferociously explosive ironic reprise of “But Alive” toward the end of the second act that brought down the house (preceding the dead on arrival “Something Greater” for Lauren Bacall to all but resign herself to June Cleaver’s kitchen). I have to admit, it’s not a strong song as written but she sure as hell sells it.
Penny still looks fantastic and is giving one of the most honest performances on a NY stage right now in Dividing the Estate (look for more on that in the near future). She also gets to sing a little but, sounding exactly as she did almost forty years ago which prompts the question: why hasn’t she been in any musicals lately?