Lynda Rodolitz

February 21, 2019

In the show she performed in 2016, Lynda Rodolitz declared, convincingly, that she was “Off Her Rocker.” She underscores, maybe even expands, that comic assertion in her laugh-rich current show, Animal Magnetism (at Don’t Tell Mama, directed by Lennie Watts). In this musically sophisticated outing, she purports to solicit dating advice from the animal kingdom—by observation, if not directly—because her own love life hasn’t been going so well for several decades. When she can’t get tips on meeting prospects, and mating with them, from a wide swath of creatures (not excluding the estimated 100,000 species of insects), she attempts to adapt other behavior from their examples. She notes that we humans tend toward using derogatory animal similes: “eat like a pig,” “sick as a dog,” or “sly as a fox.” But Rodolitz vastly prefers to extol the ultimate critter/person analogy: the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. Visually, she does this by means of an engaging onstage costume change: She drops her somewhat standard-issue black sequined tuxedo jacket in favor of a unique creation, a reversible, floor-length carmine-and-teal cape in which she giddily twirls and trills her metaphorical metamorphosis.

Like “Creep” (Albert Hammond, Mike Hazelwood) and “Gorgeous” (Harnick & Bock), the neatly paired songs that embrace that central set piece, a few of Rodolitz’s selections may, at first blush, seem obvious choices—for example, “Talk to the Animals” (Leslie Bricusse), the Oscar-winning “Born Free” (John Barry, Don Black), or even “Don’t Bug Me” (Beckie Menzie, Cheryl Coons). Ah, but her opener is David Yazbek’s “Chimp in a Suit,” a sure clue that this set won’t be all “The Aba Daba Honeymoon” (Walter Donovan, Arthur Fields), although a piece of that 1950 monkey novelty hit is included in a medley. The stentorian, mainstream, and lion-centric “Born Free” is niftily coupled with the much heartier rocker “Eye of the Tiger” (Frankie Sullivan, Jim Peterrick)—as an encore yet. And “Don’t Bug Me” is enhanced by Rodolitz’s acting the role of a female praying mantis being sexually assaulted by a male mantis. Another borderline-bawdy observation—that “all female marsupials have three vaginas”—is underscored by her snippet of “Three Times a Lady” (Lionel Richie), like the Commodores never sang it.

Some sort of musically anthropomorphic comparison of creatures to humans isn’t brand new, of course. In 1928, Cole Porter opined that, among other species, “Even educated fleas do it.” In her next-to-closing number, Rodolitz even improves on that composer’s litany of sex/love couplings by interweaving his “Let’s Do It” with the very human “Let’s Fall in Love” (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler). As ravishing as this dual number is, my favorite in this show is its one true outlier, the interwoven “Hello, Young Lovers” (Rodgers & Hammerstein) and “Once Upon a Time” (Strouse & Adams), beautifully delivered.

The rest of her set, delivered in a crisp hour, is interspersed with her wide variety of birdcalls and mammal bleats, some of which may even be authentic, and all of which are hearty and loud. Steven Ray Watkins, Rodolitz’s pianist and music director, has arranged not only her sometimes intricate solo offerings, but also the show’s seamless instrumental bridges and interludes, the latter including a lovely mini-rendition of “Inch Worm” (Frank Loesser, from Hans Christian Andersen). Matt Scharfglass on bass and Don Kelly on drums not only provide expectedly excellent backup, they understandably crack up at some of Rodolitz’s bits, even though they have heard and seen them before.

In short, Lynda Roloditz is a knowing, charming loon—to keep the animal analogies going.

Animal Magnetism
Don’t Tell Mama – February 10, 13, 24, 27


About the Author

Robert Windeler is the author of 18 books, including biographies of Mary Pickford, Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, and Burt Lancaster. As a West Coast correspondent for The New York Times and Time magazine, he covered movies, television and music, and he was an arts and entertainment critic for National Public Radio. He has contributed to a variety of other publications, including TV Guide, Architectural Digest, The Sondheim Review, and People, for which he wrote 35 cover stories. He is a graduate of Duke University in English literature and holds a masters in journalism from Columbia, where he studied critical writing with Judith Crist. He has been a theatre critic for Back Stage since 1999, writes reviews for, and is a member of The Players and the American Theatre Critics Association.