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Pop Music | CABARET REVIEW

Mickey Rooney's got rhythm

The venerable actor -- and his talented wife -- more than make up for his gravelly voice in a career-highlights show.

June 11, 2004|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

The Feinstein's signs were gone at the Cinegrill on Wednesday -- an immediate indication of the transition that the venerable Hollywood supper club has made from its recent association with singer Michael Feinstein back to its original identity. Appropriately, the featured act for the new (old) Cinegrill was an artist even more venerable than the room itself -- Mickey Rooney, performing through Saturday with his wife, singer Jan Chamberlin Rooney.

At this point in his career, a Rooney cabaret act is inevitably going to be about Rooney himself, and the multitalented 83-year-old actor devoted the opening half of the show to a songs-and-monologue depiction of career highlights.

He spoke and sang humorously about his early years as a youthful star in the Andy Hardy films, recalled his brief courtship and marriage to actress Ava Gardner, and reminisced tenderly about his frequent pairing with Judy Garland.

Rooney's narration was occasionally accompanied by film clips as he sang standards such as "How About You," "Manhattan" and "Where or When" and four of his own compositions (including the touching "Judy").

Although his voice can hardly be described as mellifluous, his phrasing, his rhythm and, above all, his actor's capacity to deliver a dramatic line more than compensated for a vocal tone best described as a bit gravelly.

In contrast, Jan Rooney, a singer when she met the man who's been her husband for 30 years, provided a beautifully modulated voice during her solo showcase.

Sounding authentically country in a Patsy Cline medley ("I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy"), she shifted easily into a gently swinging mood for "You Made Me Love You" and "Smile."

In the set's closing segment, the Rooneys almost -- but not quite (fortunately) -- simulated a Sonny-and-Cher routine with "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." But beyond the obviously scripted banter, the genuine affection between this Mutt-and-Jeff couple (tall wife, munchkin-size husband) was what the show was really about.

Early in the evening, Rooney noted sardonically, "So, this is what's left of Mickey Rooney."

As it turns out, what's left of Mickey Rooney is still pretty impressive.

*

Jan and Mickey Rooney

Where: The Cinegrill, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: Tonight and Saturday, 8:30

Price: $50 cover plus $25 food and beverage minimum

Contact: (323) 769-7269

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