Dozens of autobiographical one-person shows have come and gone since Billy Crystal stormed Broadway in 2004 with “700 Sundays,” his Tony-winning tribute to his father, who died of a heart attack when Crystal was just 15 years old, and growing up in Eisenhower-era Long Island with an unshakable desire to become an entertainer.
Seeing as few of these shows, if any, have surpassed Crystal’s heartwarming and hilarious tour de force, it’s a pleasure to have it return for a run before the “Les Miz” revival takes over the Imperial Theatre.
The show’s title refers to the fact that Crystal really only got to spend time with his father — a proud jazz connoisseur who worked multiple jobs — on Sundays. Hence, he spent roughly 700 Sundays with his father during his life.
With the façade of a plain suburban house in the background, Crystal manages to hold the audience in the palm of his hand for 21/2 hours, even during the somber portions of Act Two.
Crystal’s masterful storytelling is neatly integrated with observational and lowbrow humor and selections from photo albums and home movies. With childlike enthusiasm and tremendous physical energy, he offers impressions of all his family members and his younger self.
It can be assumed that director Des McAnuff (“Jersey Boys”) played a significant role in shaping the material and its presentation, as this easily could have turned out too messy, schmaltzy or self-indulgent.
Since it’s unclear if Crystal will do the show again, it really ought to be preserved on film. How about it, HBO or PBS?