Carol Burnett, 64, who starred in her own variety series on CBS from 1967 to 1978, says doing her old TV show was like creating a musical comedy revue every week. So she feels quite at home right now on the Los Angeles stage, in a new musical revue called Putting It Together.
The show is sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking, reports CBS This Morning Contributor Eleanor Mondale. Burnett leads a cast of five performers, interpreting the complex songs of Steven Sondheim in the revue.
To perform Sondheim's work, says Burnett, "is the most challenging thing one could do in the musical theater." And that might be because Sondheim's work is more than the music.
"It's everything," Burnett says. "It's impossible." And, yet, they're doing it. "Yeah," she says. "We're trying to."
Funnyman Bronson Pinchot and The Bold and the Beautiful star John McCook also get to stretch their vocal cords with Burnett as part of a strenuous musical effort that is physically and mentally taxing.
"You get thinner that way," observes Burnett, "because I eat before the show, and I don't eat afterwards. So I'm getting trim."
She adds drily, That's the whole motivation for doing this, I want you to know."
Burnett has performed on stage, in musicals and plays, throughout her career. But her primary milieu is television. She has a recurring role on Mad About You, as the mother of the character played by Helen Hunt. Although she appeared as a regular on the Garry Moore program in the '50s, it was her own CBS variety program that brought her the greatest fame and garnered 22 Emmy Awards. In 1985, she was elected to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
Now and then she makes a movie, receiving the Best Actress prize at the San Sebastian Festival for her role in A Wedding (1978). Burnett's other film credits include Moon Over Broadway (1998), Made in America (1993), Noises Off (1992), Annie (1982), Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981), The Four Seasons (1981), Health (1980), The Front Page (1974), and Pete 'n' Tillie (1972).
As for her current project, Putting It Together continues until Dec. 6 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.