But unlike so many previous performers at the Carlyle, who have trumpeted the anthem with full gusto as their finale-cum-summation, Reynolds presents the song almost at the top of her act, complete with an ultra-bouncy tempo and almost all of Sondheim's lyrics replaced with special ones detailing some of Reynolds' early experiences in Hollywood. It's just one early indication that the Tinseltown legend and the legendary New York boite are an unusual (and not entirely successful) match.
Reynolds, who tours the country playing 2000-seat houses, spends a great deal of the act commenting on the room's intimate setting and small stage, and she's clearly not entirely comfortable yet in these surroundings. And the Carlyle's well-heeled clientele, used to acts of great sophistication and polish, might not always know what to make of the star's slightly ramshackle routine, with its bawdy patter and hilarious off-the-cuff quips -- including out-of-nowhere shots at everyone from Burt Reynolds to Peter Lawford.
Without question, the star clearly knows how to entertain a crowd -- and her anything-goes spirit is eventually infectious. It's hard to imagine that any other member of 1950s Hollywood royalty would go offstage mid-act, only to return looking almost exactly like Barbra Streisand -- thanks to a blonde wig and fake nose -- and do an almost dead-on impersonation of the super-superstar. (She also does a damn good Zsa Zsa Gabor and a pretty funny and pretty accurate Katharine Hepburn.)
Reynolds doesn't shy away from the tough stuff -- such as talking about her failed marriages -- and she is just as willing to take potshots at some of the silly songs that helped launch her film career. But she also takes great pride in her successes, including the movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the Broadway hit Irene, and her top-selling song "Tammy" (which concludes the show on a very sweet note). Moreover, even if Reynolds was never the world's greatest vocalist, she knows how to put over a song, as proved by her renditions of "That's Life" and "From This Moment On." And her sheer gutsiness in tackling a medley of songs associated with her good friend Judy Garland is to be admired.
Indeed, by the time she leaves the stage, one is very glad that Debbie Reynolds is still here and still working.