“Tripping” With Heroic Lambs

(L-R) Joyce "Trixie" Randolph of "The Honeymooners" joins Sheila Smith, Cabaret Today host, Linda Fields, and singer, Rita Ellis Hammer at The Lambs

[ NOTE: The story below will appear in the forthcoming issue of The Lambs’ SCRIPT, the club’s magazine dating back to the 1930’s. The issue will be a 10th Anniversary tribute to the heroes and victims of September 11th. ]

While naïve diners were supping in a Manhattan restaurant audaciously calling itself “The Lambs Club,” just blocks away at their chic longtime 51st St. address across from
Rockefeller Center, members were gathering at the real club, The Lambs. A treasured American institution, with its rich and continuing theatrical history dating back to England of the 19th century, the club, formally known as The Lambs Inc., has been, and continues to be, the oldest theatrical club in the world. And oh, by the way, the club has its own fine restaurant, The Pub.

Have you heard the expression, “You had to be there?” There was eager anticipation in the crowd that gathered Monday evening August 1, 2011 on the fifth floor of The Lambs. Members had come together to view a never-before-seen treasure that had come to light through the efforts of Broadway veteran and Lambs First Lady, Sheila Smith, who graciously served as hostess for the screening, as her beloved Randy Phillips, another Broadway vet, looked on proudly in his role as current Shepherd of The Lambs. The film presented was a video tape recording of the Lambs’ “Wash” of 2001. Among the guests attending were many of the members of that original cast. They would be the last to ever call themselves heroes, but really they are. It was a valiant little group of Lambs in the fall of 2001 that courageously carried on with plans for the annual “Wash” entertainment for the elderly residents of the Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. Why courageously? Well, the event was scheduled to take place right after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. The city of New York was effectively in “lockdown.” How could the Wash cast even assemble to rehearse, let alone travel to New Jersey? Never would “the show must go on” have greater meaning!

The show was titled, Around the World in 45 Minutes, and in an ironic twist at that tragic time, it revolved about an airplane trip around the globe. Shepherd, A.J. Pocock,
delivered brief opening remarks and director, Kevin McMullen, was cast as the Pilot. Kathy Kelleher played the Stewardess, with Peter Kingsley as the Steward while Mark Janas played the Navigator. Passengers included Marc Baron as the Castilian, Billie Stewart as the Beauty Queen, Sheila Smith as the UPI Reporter, Kay Arnold as the CNN Correspondent, Peter Johl as the General, Helen Klass as the Chanteuse, Gene Rogers as the Mandarin, Eleanor Carney as the Diva, Tom Dillon as the Leprechaun, and Charlotte Fairchild as the Spy. The plot description: “The Plane Never Gets Off the Ground.” But that did not prevent the spirited cast from singing its way through London, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Mexico, Nepal, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Venezuela,
Istanbul, China, Tokyo, Baghdad, Ireland and several stops across the USA before finally landing in New York! Appreciative applause, cheers, and peals of laughter frequently interrupted the evening’s screening. Here is a sampling of the delights enjoyed:

Kathy sang a passionate, “I’m Flying,” that was full of joy. Marc delivered a lisping, “Lady of Spain,” full of both gusto and hilarity. Billie’s “Chaquita Banana” resurrected the fun of
Carmen Miranda, while Sheila and Kay glided from, “Waltzing Matilda,” to the calypso rhythms of, “Matilda.” Peter Johl and Helen Klass were off to France as he charmed with, “A Perfect Paris Night,” and she delivered a haughty and delicious, “The Last Time I Saw Paris.” Kay provided a merry, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” Gene tipped his hat elegantly to the orient with, “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” before Helen, Eleanor & Billie formed a sweet geisha trio for the Gilbert & Sullivan merriment of, “Three Little Maids From School.” Kevin created an uproarious segment portraying a prince of old Baghdad in a scene that seemed right out of the Arabian Nights with Marc and Peter Kingsley both hilarious as the royal servants. Tom was aptly described as “everybody’s favorite leprechaun,” as he delivered a charming, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” Charlotte brought Mermanesque style to a solid, “Chicago,” and a feisty and amusing, “Why Do the Wrong People Travel When the Right People Stay Back Home?” Billie served up a rousing, “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” while the ensemble offered great renditions of, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and “Oklahoma!” Reprising the role she created on Broadway, Sheila delighted the audience with, “When You Meet a Man in Chicago,” from Sugar.

Gathering LAMBS (L-R) Eleanor Carney, Billie Stewart, Sheila Smith, Kathy Kelleher

For poignant and climactic joy the full cast joined in “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” and “New York, New York.” What those songs must have meant to the elderly audience at such a tragic time in America can only be imagined. Shepherd Pocock may have summed it
up best when he remarked, “I couldn’t be more proud of this cast that worked right through the tragedy. God Bless America!”

Somebody say, “Amen!”

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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