There she was ... standing on stage for her very first audition ever.
Any time, any place, ever.
Sure, she'd been singing since childhood and had been the youngest member of the church choir when she was just six years old. She was even named after the charmingly talented Shirley Temple herself.
But it was through the simple urging of a mentor,
Come on Shirl; give it a try, that life had presented this unexpected journey away from her small hometown in Pennsylvania (population 800) and was offering a bittersweet departure from her youthful aspirations to become a veterinarian. And so, there she was, standing on stage in New York City waiting. The renowned composer Richard Rodgers had urgently been called out of his rehearsal with the City Center Symphony in order to hear her sing; and subsequently librettist Oscar Hammerstein was telephoned at home and urged to come down immediately as well.
When asked to give renditions from the popular musical Oklahoma, the young songstress Shirley Jones explained that her pianist had already had to leave. No problem, they reasoned; and the group traveled back across the street where her musical theater audition consisted of three songs beautifully performed to the live accompaniment of the entire rehearsing orchestra. The legendary writing team of Rodgers and Hammerstein was significantly impressed, a contract was signed, and voila, a star was born.
In the six decades of show business that followed, Jones ultimately took Broadway by storm; appeared as the lead actress in films such as Oklahoma, Carousel, and The Music Man; and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film Elmer Gantry before becoming a pop culture icon as one of America's favorite TV moms, Shirley Partridge on the television series The Partridge Family.
Now, as part of a jubilee anniversary celebration, this First Lady of American Song brought her one-woman concert show to the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas on Friday night where she performed after a warm introduction by one of her contemporaries, long-time entertainment reporter Bobbie Wygant. Accompanied by the Erik Barnes band and composer/conductor Ron Abel, Mrs. Jones enchanted the crowd with amusing stories of her Hollywood experiences (including a tell-tale about the best kisser among her costars) along with delightful vocal numbers such as
A Wonderful Guy from South Pacific,
Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim,
Seventy-Six Trombones and
Till There Was You from The Music Man, as well as
Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,
People Will Say We're in Love from the beloved musical Oklahoma.
A special opening tribute to the late Larry Hagman featured the beautiful actress Audrey Landers, (a star alongside Hagman in the original and reprised television series Dallas) who sang
My Man and
Someone to Watch Over Me. The elegant, Hollywood-themed, three-course, seated dinner gala was hosted by KLIF talk show host Nicole Barrett (event chair), Dr. Donna Casey (cochair), and the
fairy godmother of Dallas charities Mrs. Yvonne Crum (honorary chair) along with host committee members Cathy Vieth, Billie Leigh Rippey, Jill Rogers Rowlett, Cynthia Davis, Kim Gatlin, Stephanie Spaulding, Maggie Sova, and Gina Ginsburg. The evening's performance was dedicated to victims of sexual violence with proceeds benefitting the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center (DARCC) and the Women's Center of Tarrant County Rape and Victims Services.
For more information about Shirley Jones, visit her website or read her candid new book, Shirley Jones: A Memoir, a
hilarious and heartwarming, shocking and intimate autobiographical account scheduled to be available in July 2013.