I won’t wait all night!!
― Miss Kitt warns the audience
I came back because you needed me.
― Miss Kitt
There is no doubt that the late Miss Eartha Kitt was a woman not to be messed with unless, you had a death wish. Just saying. This petite actress, dancer, singer and activist had a voice that was meant to be heard and be taken seriously. She took the role of Catwoman from the 60s show “Batman” and sculpted a character that can never be duplicated. “I’m back bitches!,” says the ultimate femme fatale channeling herself through actress Ashlee Olivia Jones. Wearing a white, silk robe, black heels and red turban, Jones uses the well-known breathy, childlike voice that Kitt was known for. Jones takes the audience back when she was a dance student at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance in New York. She was then known briefly as Kitty Charles.
She would later move to Paris and find work courtesy of Academy Award winner Orson Welles. However, it wasn’t until the third and final season of “Batman,” that Kitt became Catwoman. Jones executes Kitt’s feline prowess with her lithe body and impressionable purr in the voice. She also revealed how Kitt had problems with Lady Bird Johnson at a White House luncheon. Johnson asked Kitt her opinion on the Vietnam war. Kitt responded: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” The First Lady was not amused. That inflammatory comment made Lady Bird Johnson cry and temporarily halted Kitt’s career in America. She was able to find work overseas.
As Jones recounts that ugly time in Kitt’s career, she slowly dresses like Catwoman. The tail, the ears and finally the mask. She takes her time clearly enunciating every word in her sexy growl. While the audience wasn’t looking or paying attention to the transformation, Jones and Miss Kitt become one. Jones is effortlessly able to become the villainess the way that Kitt created almost 50 years ago. Her mannerisms, speech and body movements mimic perfectly the way Kitt performed long ago.
Kitt, who passed away at age 81 away from colon cancer on Christmas Day in 2008, would become popular again as the sexually charged cosmetics maven Lady Eloise from the Eddie Murphy movie “Boomerang” in 1992. Jones brings out Kitt’s spirit, drive, chutzpah, swag in this hour show. Hopefully, she will be able to lengthen her version of Kitts so the audience will have a wider intake of this grand dame. Not to missed. Get ready to be charmed.
E.A.R.T.H.A. ‘s limited run ends today at 5:30 p.m., playing at the Underground Theatre Annex, located at 1314 Wilton Place in Los Angeles. For ticket reservation, log on to www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4655 or call (323) 412-9069.