Oscar winner Shirley Jones, 78, has that multi-generational appeal. Grandparents love her from Broadway and movie musicals like “Oklahoma.” Parents dig her from “The Partridge Family,” and young folks chuckle at her wacky antics in the cult comedy “Grandma’s Boy.”
After wowing audiences around the world on big theater stages, Shirley has decided to treat fans to an intimate experience in the cabaret-style setting of Hotel Nikko’s Rrazz Room, where she will offer story and song through Sunday.
Corey Andrew: With so many songs and stories to choose from, how does a show like this get assembled?
Shirley Jones: I add songs, take songs away. I’ve been doing this show for years. I have the movies, and that’s what people come to hear, ‘Oklahoma,’ ‘Music Man,’ ‘Carousel.’ Then I tell stories and do a little Rodgers and Hart. I do a little old-time movie music. It’s a little bit of everything.
Corey: For these San Francisco shows, are there a couple songs you’ve added?
Shirley: I put in a little more Rodgers and Hart than I normally do, jazzy stuff. I’ve added that and some old-time stuff like, ‘You Made Me Love You,’ those kinds of old movie songs.
Corey: Have you picked out your attire?
Shirley: Yes, I have. It’s a purple, beaded suit.
Corey: How was it when you first got into the cabaret-style setting and performing for an intimate audience?
Shirley: To tell you the truth, I’ve not done much of that. The first real time I did that was Feinstein’s, and that was a year ago. I’ve never played clubs much. This is my second time. You’re never gonna believe this; I just came from playing in a department store in Baltimore. I did 18 shows. They have a theater in the store. It was incredible. I’ve performed everywhere, but I haven’t done a lot of club stuff.
Corey: What was that first evening like at Feinstein’s in New York?
Shirley: I loved it. I like getting close to an audience.
Corey: I’m sure you can make eye contact.
Shirley: Oh yeah. I do Q&As sometimes. It’s a lot of fun.
Corey: There are so many songs that come to mind when thinking about the shows and movies you’ve been part of. One of the first musicals I performed in was ‘The Music Man.’
Shirley: Oh, wow. What did you play?
Corey: I was the mayor.
Shirley: Oh, really, great, Mayor Shinn. My son, Patrick, and I are planning a whole tour doing ‘The Music Man’ for the 50th anniversary. I’ve been doing it with him. I’m doing Mrs. Paroo, and he’s doing Professor Hill. We’ve done it several places now, and they’re talking about a whole tour with film clips and talking about the show.
Corey: That’s neat. What songs from ‘Music Man’ are you performing in this show?
Shirley: I’m doing ‘’Till There Was You,’ ’76 Trombones,’ practically all of them.
Corey: You also do a version of ‘Send in the Clowns,’ and that was not one of Sondheim’s favorites.
Shirley: I know. I tell a story about that onstage. He thought it was the worst thing he ever wrote. Hysterical.
Corey: What do you do to maintain your voice, exercises?
Shirley: I do. I try. I am just getting over bronchitis. I vocalize. I’m not a kid anymore. My voice, sometimes the notes aren’t as good as they should be, but who cares? I’m gonna be 79, and I have a lot of stories to tell, and I still sing OK, so, so what? I hope I don’t cough my way through.
Corey: How often do you get recognized for ‘Grandma’s Boy?’
Shirley: I love it when I do! Just love it. It’s hysterical to me. It’s so cute. They come up to me, (whispers) ‘I saw you in “Grandma’s Boy!”’
Corey: The really fantastic thing is you’ve got multiple generations that know you from Broadway, the movies, then ‘The Partridge Family,’ and then ‘Grandma’s Boy.’
Shirley: Exactly. That’s the fun thing for me. I don’t like being known for one particular character. That’s what an actress does; she does everything. When the three of us, Shirley Knight, Doris Roberts and I were offered the part from Adam Sandler’s company, we all said, ‘This will either kill our career, or we’re back in the business.’ I wanted that part. We had a great time. They’re such a great company of people. Those guys do everything extremely well.
Corey: Is it a treat to not get recognized for ‘Partridge Family’ and get recognized for something else?
Shirley: Absolutely, sure. When I did ‘The Partridge Family,’ all the agents and managers said, ‘Don’t do a series, Shirley, because if it is successful, you’ll be that character for the rest of your life, and your movie career will be in the toilet.’ They were right. That’s what happens. They only know you from that if it’s a successful television series.
Corey: What type of humor do you like?
Shirley: All kinds. I’m married to a comic, you know.
Corey: Right, yes, Marty Allen.
Shirley: A crazy comic. I like it all. I could never not be married to a comedian. Even my first husband, Jack Cassidy, was a magnificent singer, actor and everything. He had the best sense of humor in the world. That’s what I choose. I love all kinds of humor—the further out the better.
Corey: What was the last thing Marty did that had you in stitches?
Shirley: I’m telling you, he does everything. He loves the red carpet. I am very bored with that at this age. If I’m not in town and there’s a red carpet, he has a life-size statue of me that he carries down the red carpet. I’m serious. ‘Shirley’s here.’ Unbelievable.
Shirley Jones is performing nightly at The Rrazz Room in Hotel Nikko in San Francisco through Sunday. Visit the razzroom.com for more information.