It isn’t terribly comforting when every usher warns loudly that there will be no intermission; the first page of the program even included that notice in bold italics. That warning starts to really hit hard when the introductory speeches and songs are still in full swing nearly a half-hour in and the audience is still waiting to See Jane Sing.
So when Jane Lynch finally came out (no pun intended) and opened with an invitation to join her on a journey of tunes that had nothing to do with one another and no thematic tie whatsoever, she set the stage for her random set of show tunes, love songs and hit-and-miss comedic remarks between numbers.
And yet, the two standing ovations (one before the encore that no one saw coming and one after the third encore that … perhaps the audience should have seen coming) told a very different story about the long-awaited night with television actor Jane Lynch singing her favorite songs in the Karen Carpenter Center on Saturday.
To be fair, it wasn’t just Jane who felt off about the night. Even President Jane Close Conoley felt out of place as an opening speaker for the show. Conoley candidly joked about how she “threw the party” that took place outside the Carpenter Center earlier in the evening to mark the first President’s Gala event.
Conoley, a Jane who didn’t sing that night, fumbled through a set of welcomes and encouraged guests to speak with the students in the audience who she claimed “are much smarter than I am,” as she left the stage and climbed through the row to find her seat in the darkness as the band began to play.
One solo-spotlight moment after another, the Tony Guerrero Quintet left the audience with a light buzz as it wrapped up its introductory set with a light version of “When You’re Smilin.” Tony Guerrero’s Armstrong-esque voice was a surprising cherry on top of this sweet final number.
Ready for Jane Lynch yet? Wait for it. Former musical arranger for “Glee” Tim Davis hit the stage next for another 15 minutes of somewhat stale or overly-rehearsed comedic commentary between songs. Davis, a Buble/Sinatra hopeful, made his way through romantic tunes and personal favorites and finished with a number he and the band composed about the game of tennis, which has yet to make it big.
At this point, the show felt like it could be halfway over, and the audience still hadn’t seen Jane sing.
By the time she ran out into the spotlight, those warnings from the ushers felt like a distant memory. And since there was no halfway-point break in sight on Saturday night, let’s pause for a brief
Welcome back. So anyway, Jane Lynch sang some songs, and she’s certainly no Streisand, but her shower probably doesn’t kick her out. In fact, the whole night felt like a variety show a group of friends put on for their own amusement.
After a light-hearted first song in which Jane proudly and theatrically declared, “If wishes were rainbows, so am I,” Kate Flannery of “The Office” marched out with mic in hand. Why? Seriously, who knows?
But Jane and Kate laughed their way through song after song, went back and forth about how much makeup Kate was actually wearing (a bit that felt more like an overplayed inside joke than anything else) and pondered the proper pronunciation of “clitorous.”
Jane told her story on Saturday night for a Long Beach crowd, and that included self-deprecating jokes, bold disdain for romance and couplehood, mentions of family and hometown and a sincere goodbye to the crowd, which she called friends by the end. Even the uncomfortable hip-hop rendition of “Anaconda” was loveable because the feel of true joy and excitement overshadowed any theatrical shortcomings.
In the final moments of the show, Tim, Kate and Jane sang together, and the arrangement of voices was surprisingly pleasant. With eyes closed, one would never imagine the rag-tag assortment of B-listers on stage having the time of their lives. The sounds of the band and the combination of vocal talent raised the bar of the whole show in those final moments.
Jane ended the show on a somber note; she literally closed the show with a medley of songs that made each performer on the stage cry like a child. “Puff the Magic Dragon” book-ended this compilation, and when it finally ended the audience rose in part-second-standing-ovation and part-desperate-escape. Whichever it was, members of the audience left with a song in their step and much to laugh about.