“Danny Kaye: Renaissance Man?”

The Rock Hill Herald – Nov. 4, 1970

By: Roger Doughty

BOSTON (NEA) – It’s a cold fall morning in Boston, the clocks sprinkled around the Common are a few seconds away from striking 11 and a lean guy with moppy hair is getting ready to drag himself out of bed in room 403 of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. He’s thinking how he’d rather be cooking Chinese food at has house in California or piloting his jet through the unpolluted air of the upper atmosphere.

So begins another day in the life of Danny Kaye, comic, actor, singer and all-around Renaissance Man.

Clad in an off-orange robe, Danny has a lot to think about as he munches scrambled eggs, ignoring the sausage, and wonders how to chop 15 minutes out of the second act of “Two by Two,” the show he’ll bring to Broadway this season in his return to the stage after an absence of 29 years.

“I don’t like to do interviews before 1 o’clock,” he confesses, “and I don’t like to have lunch with people and it scares the hell out of me that you’ve got a cold and you’re breathing germs all over my suite. You sit on one side of the room and I’ll sit on the other.

“From now on I’m going to demand a complete medical report on everybody who comes through that door.”

Kaye’s hang-up on germs is natural enough. “Two by Two” is a musical (Richard Rogers wrote the songs) and Danny, who plays Noah at age 600, does a lot of singing. But Kaye is more complicated than that.

“I’m a health nut,” he admits, fishing a couple of vitamin pills out of one of the many jars of capsules clustered on a table, “and I have a very large interest in medicine. In fact, I used some of my medical knowledge when I was trying to work out how to play a 600-year-old man.

“There aren’t too many of them around to pattern yourself after. Anyway, if you notice the way most actors play old people you’ll see that they bend over,” he says, leaning forward, “but age has a tendency to set you lower, not bend you over, so I bend my knees instead of leaning over. That’s a small thing but it works and I’m very proud of it, even if nobody notices that I’m doing it.”

The people who will go to see “Two by Two” will do so for two reasons – Kaye and Richard Rogers.

“Even if we get bad notices,” Danny says, “the show won’t close in three months. The advance sale has been good and people are going to come see it, even if the critics don’t like it.”

On a cold Monday night, the theatergoers of Boston turned out in force to get an advance look at what the theatergoers of New York will have to wait awhile to see.

What they saw was Danny, decked out in long-johns, emerging from what looked like a chicken coop and tossing out his opening line – “Boy, we could use a little rain.”

It’s supposed to be Noah’s 600th birthday (“And so far not even a card,” he complains) and before the evening is over – three hours later – the audience is privy to Noah’s conversations with God, 40 days and 40 nights of rain and a slight rewrite of the Old Testament.

“This isn’t the kind of show everybody is going to like,” Kaye admits. “People who have come to like me over the years may not like me in this because I play the role straight – there are very few of the Danny Kaye bits here. I’m Noah, not Danny.

“Other people are going to dislike it because it isn’t enough of a musical. The songs are there, but this is really a play with music. Some people are going to think I’m 600 too long, others are going to think I get to be 90 too soon. I admit that I’m taking a chance.”

The question is “Why?” and Danny doesn’t seem to have the answer.

“I could tour the country with my one-man show and make a lot of money,” Kaye reasons, “but I’m tired of doing that. There aren’t any movies being made, and even if there were I probably wouldn’t want to be in them – I don’t want to show my back side at this stage of the game – and what else is there to do? I’m doing what I’m doing because it’s different.

“Maybe I like the idea of being in one place for a year – I haven’t done anything like that in 30 years. Maybe while I’m on Broadway I’ll do a cooking show on TV, or a kiddies show, or maybe I’ll open a restaurant.

“I don’t like making plans, which is one reason why they used to call me Joe Improviser. Once I get the germ of an idea, you better get out of my way.”

- Home -