The Jean Shepherd who put on a one-man show in his Town Hall debut last night was not the unseen radio
monologist whose tenderly acerbic streams-of-consciousness have hooked countless listeners. But a
medium-sized enthusiastic flock on hand for the first of two successive programs nonetheless responded
to every word every gesture and every pause.
The Jean Shepherd on radio, with his cozy reminiscences and somehow charming digressions, is intimate
and beguilling. The fellow strutting back and forth on the Town Hall stage was a showman and the color
scheme was basically blue.
Behind him beige walls simulated a room effect. In the middle of the stage was a red plush-like throne,
where he occasionally perched. And, of course, Mr. Shepherd never stopped talking, and why should he?
Not with New Year's Eve prices ranging from $6 to $8.
To one viewer, who had heard him only on radio, the actor-humorist-author put on a blandly shrewd and
dismally dirt-lined show. Clad in gabardine slacks, tan jacket, and a black turtleneck, with a mike
slung around his neck, Mr. Shepherd had shucked the pristine taste regulations of the airwaves and
vaulted into high and low gear simultaneously.
He resembles a somewhat sagging Tony Bennett, the vocalist. He has the voice of uncanny resonance and
timing that would shame Senator Everett McKinley Dirkson. He can tell a story - and he gets off one
beaut about a blind date - like nobody else, except perhaps that chap on the radio night after night. He
has the benign authority of a Caesar, the vigor of a football coach, and the technical subtlety of a
His show, which was called "Excelsior!", took off with a reference to New Jersey. The springboard
settled, and Mr. Shepherd then launched into Jersey turnpikes, Preier Kosygin, President DeGaulle, his
runny nosed kid brother (Mr. Shepherd's), American turnpikes in general, Indiana turnpikes back in the
good old days, the business of making a Town Hall debut, early school days. Peppered in between, with
some brisk profanity and hi two favorite expressions ("For cry-sake" and "Ya Know?") were concrete
roguishness about Ex-Lax, suggestive labels of American cars, men's trouser zippers, jockey shorts, and
the shortage of rest rooms along the road. The last one he pantomined as an angonized driver.
The audience didn't seem to mind. And when Mr. Shepherd asked it to join him in tooting "The Shiek of
Araby" with the toy kazoos handed out at the door, the response was just as keen.
Right here, for one viewer, was a delightful surprise. Standing at the edge of the stage, pointing to an
amplifier that played back the buzzing din, for a moment Mr. Shepherd seemed to listen as carefully as
his patrons. Either out of character, or deeper into it, the smile that fitted across his face was shy,
warm and genuine.
Mr. Shepherd's endeavor was directed by Jeremy Stevens. The production was designed by Kent Broadhurst,
and the star's co-producers were Jay H. Fuchs, Barry Diamond, and Leigh Brown.
There was also George Washington, the Gilbert Stuart portrait as the sole, centered wall ornament. The
joke was, when the curtain went up, that the spotlight hit the picture, not Mr. Shepherd. In any case,
our first President did not crack a smile. But then he didn't have a radio. ||
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