SF Sketchfest Review: Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, 1/28/18

by Carrie Kahn on February 4, 2018

Annie Ellicott sings with Jeff Goldblum (on piano) and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre on Jan. 28th. (Photo courtesy of: https://www.facebook.com/pg/goldblumofficial/photos)

For the third year in a row, SF Sketchfest fans were treated to the affable charm of actor and musician Jeff Goldblum, who brought his Mildred Snitzer Orchestra jazz band to the Marines’ Memorial Theatre last Sunday for a cabaret-style evening of jazz, movie clips, and a whole lot more. Goldblum’s laid-back and amiable presence is always enjoyable, and he seems to take just as much pleasure in his show and his audience interaction as his fans do.

Goldblum immediately set the tone of the evening by greeting fans as they filed into the theater before the show’s start time, much to the audience’s surprise and delight. As we took our seats, Goldblum wandered the room, throwing out trivia questions about his movies, in a sort of Six-Degrees-of-Jeff-Goldblum kind of way, where a question about a particular actor he may have co-starred with would prompt him to veer into a whole new set of questions about a totally different movie. With the audience yelling out answers both right and wrong, the mood was set for a relaxed, anything-goes kind of night. Goldblum was happy to pose for selfies, and kept us entertained by moving from trivia to “Would You Rather” (Steve Martin or Jim Carrey?) and by asking for someone to sing a country’s national anthem and have him guess it. A couple in the audience gave him an invite to their upcoming wedding, which Goldblum gracefully received, and then serenaded them with a few bars of “We’ve Only Just Begun.” And in a particularly amusing bit, Goldblum said he would do a dramatic reading of a text message exchange from someone’s phone. In a stroke of comedic luck for the audience, a young woman offered up her phone, on which she had been texting with a friend about the show, wherein the friend had mused about certain aspects of Goldblum’s anatomy. Goldblum didn’t seem phased by the detailed, somewhat X-rated ruminations at all; he laughed as hard as the audience.

With the audience thus already thoroughly won over in the show’s first few minutes, Goldblum, looking dapper in black pants, a sparkly silver top, black leather jacket, a jaunty black hat, black and white wing tips and hipster eyeglasses, took to the stage with his four-piece band. James King on tenor sax, Tim Emmons on bass, John Storie on guitar, and Kenny Elliott on drums — excellent musicians all — joined Goldblum, who provided vocals and some pretty sharp piano playing that proved acting isn’t his sole talent. Singer Annie Ellicott, who, besides having a lovely voice, had nice chemistry with Goldblum, joined the quintet occasionally; the two told stories and riffed together between songs. The band’s repertoire consisted of retro, mellow jazz and swing standards; Sonny Rollins, Randy Newman, Sonny Clark, and Thelononius Monk all received pleasing, well-orchestrated renditions.

In between the musical numbers, we were treated to clips from Goldblum’s career on a large screen behind the stage; Goldblum insisted his producer was making all the selections, and that, like us, he didn’t know what to expect. Highlights included an early guest appearance on Laverne and Shirley (the audience applauded wildly when Goldblum’s character kissed Penny Marshall’s Laverne), footage from his single-season 1980 TV show Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, and nearly forgotten roles in the 1980s films Transylvania 6-500 (1985) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980) (the emphasis on footage from 1980 led Goldblum to break into a nostalgic excerpt of Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year”). 

The music and old performance clips were also interspersed with two more trivia games. In one, Goldblum read lines of dialog from the current slate of Oscar Best Picture nominees, causing the audience to shout over itself trying to beat each other to the answer. Goldblum would give us hints like, “I haven’t seen this one yet,” or “I’m half way through this one,” which, while not helpful, was extremely amusing. He went more local with the second game, in which he threw out cleverly named San Francisco laundromats and had the audience guess which neighborhood they were in. The audience particularly loved this bit, as Goldblum was reading from questions prepared by his producer, and, as became apparent, had no idea about SF neighborhoods, thus causing him to pronounce Noe Valley (home of Spin City, of course), as “No” Valley, much to the audience’s great merriment. At first Goldblum didn’t understand the audience’s excessive laughter; finally, when his mistake was pointed out, he declared in his droll, laconic way, “Ah, I see; I thought you were laughing with me, but you’re laughing at me.”

Such self-deprecation and willingness to laugh makes Jeff Goldblum an absolute joy to spend an evening with. His dry wit and enthusiasm for both his fans and his industry (he seems just as much as into movies — both his own and others’ — as we all did) are infectious, and definitely worth the price ($50) of the ticket. As he sadly ended the evening (“This is the last song already!?” he lamented), he joked that “after this, we all go to my hotel room” and promised to order pizza for all as the crowd erupted in cheers. He finished the show by telling us who he was wearing (shirt by Yves Saint Laurent; belt by Tom Ford) and celebrating the fact that with the show’s early end time, “You’ll be asleep by ten.” 

Of course Goldblum received a standing ovation from the enraptured and ecstatic crowd. If he returns for a fourth year next January, I highly advise that you check his show out. With his genial manner, warm enthusiasm, and array of storytelling and musical talents, Jeff Goldblum creates an old-fashioned evening of wide-ranging entertainment that never fails to enchant.




Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll. Proud new member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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