Whether he’s tripping over an imaginary curtain or reimagining a pas de deux ballet routine he performed as a boy sans partner, Jim Dale proves to be remarkably spry for 78. In Just Jim Dale, a glorified cabaret act playing through Aug. 10 at Roundabout’s Off Broadway Laura Pels Theatre, the British-born actor recounts his noteworthy career in song, anecdote, and groan-inducing music-hall joke. (Mark York accompanies him on piano.)
Dale has a rich life to draw upon. As a teenager, he left a job at a shoe factory (”I put down my knife, picked up my confidence, and I walked out”) and joined the music-hall circuit as a young performer, doing 14 shows per week, 50 weeks per year. He had a brief stint as a teen pop idol (though he might have spared us a full rendition of his bizarrely titled self-penned hit, ”Dick-a-Dum-Dum (King’s Road)”) and cowrote the Oscar-nominated theme to the 1966 film Georgy Girl. Before long, he embarked on a career in theater that would earn him a Tony Award for the 1980 musical Barnum.
These days, though, he may be best known as the voice ? or voices ? of all the characters in the audiobook versions of all seven Harry Potter books. And he shares some illuminating thoughts on the awkwardness of the recording sessions and the real-life people on whom he based characters like Dobby the house elf. In this amiable little show, Dale emerges as something like the world’s coolest grandfather. He may not have the singing voice of his youth, and he may drag out some yarns and repeat himself occasionally, but you won’t regret the time spent at his proverbial knee. B