During the pandemic shut-down of live theater, stage and screen star Julie Halston – a co-founding member of Charles Busch’s legendary company Theatre-in-Limbo – took to the internet to keep fans entertained with over 40 episodes of her hit web series Virtual Halston on YouTube, co-produced by Halston and Birdland Jazz Club host and impresario Jim Caruso. On Monday, October 17, the comedic actress, whose impressive Broadway credits include Tootsie, You Can’t Take It with You, Hairspray, Anything Goes, Gypsy, and the 2021 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for her advocacy on behalf of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, returned after a three-year hiatus to her home-away-from-home at Birdland, with her new in-person and livestreamed show De-Classified!. It was an hour of hilarious observations and non-stop laughs that was well worth the wait.
Taking the stage with her Tony in hand, the beloved NYC icon opened the hour-long sold-out show (as all of her shows are) with a serious message about proceeds from the evening going to support the PFF and dedicating her performance to two friends who were lost to pulmonary fibrosis, as was her husband (the celebrated newscaster Ralph Howard). She then launched into her sharp-witted assessments of everything from at-home shopping for hair-care products made of snail mucous and dozens of available eczema medications to a lot of TV watching during the pandemic, her concerns about a date with a man she met through an online site (“he’s handsome – BUT SO WAS TED BUNDY!!!”), and unexpected experiences with groups of nude senior citizens, among many other seemingly unrelated stories that she fluidly tied together.
Halston also entertained the enthusiastic house with a sidesplitting ad-lib referencing the latest Patti Lupone controversy when she heard a cell phone go off in the room, and her signature verbatim readings of laughably perplexing publications she found (“I’m NOT making this up!”). Those included the frightening Catholic catechism book she was obliged to memorize at the age of seven, an over-the-top gay wedding announcement (“Was that TOO GAY???”), a feature on model Kate Moss’s spiritual journey (noting the contradiction in creating her own wellness brand Cosmoss and signing on as the new creative director for Diet Coke!), and her encore of a “Dear Ann Landers” letter from a drugged-out writer. As if their actual contents weren’t preposterous enough, she added to the absurdity with her spot-on expressive intonations, facial and physical reactions, and direct-address comments to the audience, all of which proved her talents as both a comic and an actress and were delivered with irresistible levity, not critical malice.
If you love to laugh, my best advice is to get your tickets for Julie Halston’s next show the minute it’s announced, so you don’t miss out. You’ll be glad that you did!
Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, without intermission.
Julie Halston: De-Classified! played on Monday, October 17, 2022, at Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th Street, NYC.