Ali Harper shines as Doris Day

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - by Ali Harper Di­rected by Stephanie McKel­lar-Smith Mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Rodger Fox Re­gent on Broad­way Sun­day July 10 Re­viewed by Richard Mays

In her hey­day, singer and ac­tress Doris Day was an Amer­i­can film and record­ing icon. After see­ing this per­for­mance, you could say she still is.

Known as an an­i­mal rights cam­paigner, Day is still alive, aged 94, and you get she was an icon by the way sub­se­quent artists, among them The Beatles, El­ton John, Billy Joel, Wham!, Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sond­heim, and the writ­ers of Grease ref­er­enced her in their songs.

Close friends with fel­low stars Rock Hud­son, Jimmy Ste­wart, Ron­ald Rea­gan and Cary Grant, Day is best remembered these days for the song Que Sera Sera from the Hitch­cock movie The Man

Who Knew Too Much, her star­ring role in 1953’s Calamity Jane with its hit song, Se­cret Love, and her first big hit Sen­ti­men­tal Jour­ney.

Of course her con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing a long pro­fes­sional ca­reer that be­gan in 1938 un­til her last re­lease in 2011, amounts to so much more.

Singer Ali Harper spent three years work­ing on this mu­si­cal doc­u­men­tary trib­ute, which takes the un­usual ap­proach of mak­ing the au­di­ence guests at the record­ing of a 1971 ‘‘spe­cial’’. Dur­ing this, Harper as Day takes us into her con­fi­dence, talks to the off-stage pro­duc­tion per­son­nel and keeps her pet dogs in check, all while per­form­ing some of the per­former’s best known songs.

And Harper has a phe­nom­e­nal ef­fort­less singing voice, and though she could in­tro­duce a lit­tle vo­cal vari­a­tion into her char­ac­ter’s speak­ing voice, the il­lu­sion she cre­ates is a mas­ter­ful one.

Sure, the star’s per­sona keeps us at a dis­tance. There are no ex­trap­o­lated in­sights into her psy­che – what we get is pretty much what’s on the pub­lic record.

There are nice pro­duc­tion touches – the back­ing by a band screened in in black and white on the large cen­tral screen for in­stance, while the sound is slick and flaw­less. Ev­ery­thing is al­most too per­fect.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Ali Harper as Doris Day.

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