Babes in Oldness

Mickey Rooney's still short. And so is the odd-lot assemblage of songs and reminiscences that he and his wife, Jan, have put together. At 84, Rooney is also still feisty, but no longer slim. In that regard, he's the opposite of the show, which is about as thin as a show can get: a spray of familiar jokes; a slew of old photographs and MGM film clips; the inevitable, slightly mechanical-seeming tribute to Judy. A smart manager, handed Mickey Rooney, could put such a show together in his sleep, and that's indeed how this one seems to have been put together, especially in the moments when Rooney's energy wanes, or he can't keep his bow tie in place, or his memory slips far enough for him to confuse Ann Miller with Anne Jeffreys.

Between Rooney's segments, his spouse, Jan, lines out a set of old-time standards, with a breezy professionalism that suggests late-period Blossom Seeley. Pleasant in themselves, they mix oddly with the already odd blend of confessional, career recap, and new songs that are Rooney's own contribution. The show has occasional sparks of life—the brief flashes when Rooney onstage, as if charged up by the dazzling electricity of the young Rooney on-screen, dives into the first line of a song, or launches a tiny dance step that's over as soon as it starts. But he shouldn't need to be out there at all: He worked so hard in those MGM flicks that he deserves a rest.

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