Throughout her young life, Ann Talman had been told she looked like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. It seemed like Kismet when at 22, the actress was cast as Taylor’s daughter in Lillian Helman’s The Little Foxes on Broadway. Even she would comment on their likeness. “Once in a Lifetime” Talman excitedly sings, shrugging off years. (Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse)
Talman’s mother had died suddenly, nor apparently was theirs a close relationship. Uber-southern imitation seems harsh and critical of “Ayen” (Ann). The artist is a good mimic. Taylor’s dulcet tones are spot on. “It was as if Elizabeth sensed I was motherless,” she tells us. “Long Before I Knew You” (Jule Styne/Betty Comden and Adolph Green) “reflects.” Aptly chosen songs arrive as if finishing spoken narrative. The chronicle buoyed by sincerity, affection, and humor.
Both new to live theater, Taylor and Talman got their Actors Equity cards together. Foxes’ opening night celebration was at Studio54, its after party at Sardi’s. For the first, but not the last time, Taylor helped the young actress dress. “If They Could See Me Now” (Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields) illuminates a turning point.
Her surrogate mother took Talman in hand with advice about fashion, flirting, men (like Taylor with Mongomery Clift, Talman would have a gay suitor), how to apply lipstick without a mirror, best be photographed, and get out of a limousine like a lady-Talman demonstrates on the piano bench. Taylor met Talman’s father and brother (a charming scene).
During 18 months of touring, there would be multiple movie night pajama parties. “The Dieter’s Prayer” (Joel Silberman/Amanda McBroom) fondly refers to Taylor’s half-hearted struggle with weight. Anecdotes about the icon’s stage pranks are wonderful. The star comes off likeable, nurturing, generous, and bawdy. “I Could Write a Book” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) Talman sings.
“Elizabeth and I often fell in love with our guest stars,” introduces Talman’s first husband. Taylor’s successive spouses are listed with addendum. Taylor preferred being married. “Why Did I Choose You?” (Michael Leonard/Herbert Martin) Talman sings.
Life went on. The women remained connected. Talman would marry again. “The Second Time Around” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn) Taylor sent her regrets. “Your wedding should be about you. I would distract.” She was loyal to a fault. Deep friendships with Roddy McDowall and Rock Hudson spurred the groundbreaking creation of the American Foundation for Aids Research – AMFAR. “That’s What Friends Are For” (Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager) Talman sings.
Colorful, authentic stories are entertaining; direction skillfully polished to a high shine, gestures kept to a minimum. Turning her back to toss an invisible bouquet deftly punctuates. (I would only wish the artist more often looked at her audience instead of over our heads.)
Ann Talman is an expressive vocalist with a fine clear alto permeated by warmth. Talented MD/pianist Alex Rybeck underscores so symbiotically it’s as if he paints a set. By the time we get to “Make Someone Happy” (Jule Styne/ Betty Comden & Adolph Green), we’ve both laughed and have been moved.
Production Photos – Richard Hillman
Photo of the ladies courtesy of Ann Talman
Ann Talman: The Shadow of Her Smile
Musical Director- Alex Rybeck
Director – Lina Koutrakos
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