Billy Crystal will be at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., on Thursday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. Gala tickets are $300, and include prime seating, a post-show party and parking. For Gala tickets, email Donna Santos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Non-Gala tickets are $45 to $200. Tickets are available at the PPAC box office, by phone at (401) 421-2787, and online at ppacri.org.
Legendary actor and comedian Billy Crystal brings his new show, “Spend the Night with Billy Crystal,” to Providence.
“My favorite moments on TV were when I would be on [David] Letterman’s show — I have a great relationship with Dave — and we would just go,” said Billy Crystal.
Now Crystal is bringing that same anything-goes feeling to the Providence Performing Arts Center on Thursday with a show called “Spend the Night with Billy Crystal,” which is also the theater’s annual fundraising gala. Crystal described the performance as a “faux talk show,” with actress Bonnie Hunt playing Crystal’s foil.
“A lot of the stories she leads me to become pieces of stand-up,” Crystal said in a phone interview. “I’m probably on my feet 90 percent of the time.”
There are some set pieces that he does every night, but there are also times when he and Hunt will veer off in unexpected directions. The show includes film clips from Crystal’s career, some of them familiar to fans, some that people have probably never seen.
“The show is different every night … it’s like if we had dinner together and you wanted to ask me questions,” he said.
Crystal is not normally a political comedian, but President Donald Trump is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for comedians. “You can’t help but want to say something,” Crystal said. “Of course, it’s hard to top the actual mayhem that’s going on … there is a political moment in the show, but we try to take a fresh angle.”
J.L. “Lynn” Singleton, president and CEO of PPAC, said Crystal was an ideal choice for the theater’s gala performer, since he has wide appeal and hasn’t performed in the Rhode Island area recently. And Singleton said the theater learned from Jay Leno’s 2015 appearance that people enjoy laughing for a few hours before going to the after-show party.
Singleton saw Crystal’s tour in Florida, and was impressed: “It was a wonderful evening; the crowd loved it. As long as we don’t have another Snowzilla, we should be fine.”
Crystal, who just turned 69, has had a long career as comedian, author, TV actor and movie star. He even had a one-day contract with his beloved New York Yankees, striking out in a spring training game.
He was far more successful with his Broadway show, “700 Sundays,” about his relationship with his parents. In 2005 it won a Tony Award for special theatrical event. Crystal revived the show in 2014 for 54 performances, some of which were recorded for an HBO special.
He said his current show is nothing like “700 Sundays.” (The title comes from the number of Sundays he spent with his father, Jack, who died when Crystal was 15.) “That was really a play. There was a little room for improvisation here and there, but not very much. I had a story to tell, and I had to tell it,” he said.
Crystal is also famous for hosting the Oscars, which he’s done nine times, the last one in 2012. Would he do it again?
“That’s a good question. It would depend on what I would do. And if they asked. It would be nice to get to number 10. I’ve had great experiences at the Oscars, and I appreciate that there are still calls for me to do it,” he said.
As for the train wreck at the end of this year’s Oscars, when an envelope mix-up led to the wrong movie being announced as best picture, Crystal said that, under the circumstances, host Jimmy Kimmel handled it about as well as anyone could.
Crystal has several projects in the planning stages, including a possible new Broadway piece, but was reluctant to get any more specific in case they don’t pan out. “I just had my 69th birthday, and my family asks me if I’m going to slow down,” he said. “I say ‘I can’t. I have too much to do.’ ”
Not everything has been a success. Crystal is still a bit upset that a 2015 project, a comedy on FX called “The Comedians,” was canceled after one season. The show starred Crystal as an older comic icon and Josh Gad as a young up-and-comer, joined in an uneasy partnership on a late-night sketch comedy show. The show only got so-so reviews and ratings.
“I thought we needed another season,” Crystal said. “Given a chance we could have turned it around.”
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