What's left to say about Lena Horne that hasn't been said a thousand times before, or more?
Well, for one thing, that probably no other American entertainer -- certainly none as elegant, dazzling and classy -- gets as much mileage out of sweat.
There she stands, immaculate in her blinding-white gown and sparkling earrings, talking about being a champion sweater, producing quantity and quality both -- sweat that "can take the color out of white." Not perspiration, mind you, but sweat. No matter: It keeps her "dewy," she says, and you can see that it does. The towels she drapes around her throat become accessories, and the pauses to mop her neck and the occasional finger-flick across her forehead turn into bits of stage business.
It's almost as jarring as a statue sweating, and she and the audience plainly delight in the contrast, just as they all delight in a 65- year-old grandmother's kidding about her age while showing more vitality, energy and sexiness than most people half -- or a third, for that matter -- her age. The same twinkle and wink show through in everything from how she learned a "Hollywood walk" to, more seriously, how "once upon a time we had a year named 1940" ruled by someone named Jim Crow.
She talks of singing in clubs that blacks couldn't enter, except as menial labor; and of black soldiers who pinned up her picture at inspection so they wouldn't get in trouble for having Betty Grable's photo in their lockers. And of Hollywood's designing a special makeup ("light Egyptian") for her, and of her watching white actresses, wearing her "light Egyptian," playing black roles.
And she talks of her family and of the high and low points of her career.
But mainly what she does, as no one else can do, is sing and dance and entertain. All the songs you've ever identified with her are there -- "Stormy Weather" twice -- and some new ones; she switches from arch to sassy to coy without a false note or move; and you've never really seen vamping until you've seen her and Lance K. Hardy, one of the three talented young dancers in her company, do "The Spider and the Fly."
The whole show -- orchestra, dancers, music and concept -- is zesty, delightful and first-class. Of course, you have to be first- class to travel with Lena Horne; but that's been said before. LENA HORNE: THE LADY AND HER MUSIC -- At the Warner Theater through May 29. Tickets from $20 to $32.50.