The time was 10:40, last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, when the audience began its second and final standing ovation for Victor Borge. This was extremely late for a show that had begun at 8 and relied almost exclusively on the energy of one man -- aided peripherally by a harried page-turner before intermission and a harried soprano after. But the audience seemed ready for anything and Borge seemed in no hurry.
Borge began in fine form, looking up at the massive organ pipes above the stage and asking, "Don't we have a plumber here who can fix that?" And he ended brilliantly, performing his familiar "Phonetic Punctuation Marks" as an encore.
One explanation for the program's unusual length is that the pianist-comedian had quite a bit of serious music in his show, but he did not lower his quota of the comic material that really sells the tickets. Serious moments included a few waltzes, a suite of Danish folk melodies, the Kreisler-Rachmaninoff "Liebesleid," Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and Schubert's "Ave Maria." Borge seems timid about this material, though he is a fine pianist and the audience indulges his need to create beauty as well as humor. This is understandable; as a comedian he is unique, while as a pianist he does what many others also do well. But the two elements mix well, and the contrast strengthens the effect of each.
-- Joseph McLellan