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Published: Thursday, 10/20/2005

Symphony s spotlight on Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds  song choices
will be a surprise. Debbie Reynolds song choices will be a surprise.

Breadth, longevity, and an unshakable tenacity mark the career of actress/singer Debbie Reynolds. One of the few stars of MGM's "golden era" still working in both film and on stage, Reynolds is part chameleon, all survivor. A consummate professional, there is hardly a role she can't make fit.

Consider: from 2000 until 2004, Reynolds was the voice of Lulu Pickles in the animated television series Rugrats. Nearly five decades earlier, she had been the endearing and sweet-voiced Tammy in the movie Tammy and the Bachelor. In between, Reynolds was cast in nearly 40 movies, umpteen television shows, and countless stage appearances.

Reynolds performs with the Toledo Symphony at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Stranahan Theater.

I last saw Reynolds perform on July 4, 2001, on the Boston Esplanade. It was a remarkable bill, one she shared with Cyndi Lauper and Arlo Guthrie. One might have expected the onetime new waver Lauper to make the then 69-year-old Reynolds look like a dowdy blue-haired lady. It wasn't to be. Reynolds strutted on stage, looked the crowd of 300,000 in the eyes, then stole the show.

The El Paso native first won attention in 1943 when she won a Burbank, Cal., beauty contest as a Betty Hutton look-alike. Soon others would want to look like Reynolds.

Although not her first movie, Reynolds established her stardom alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in the exuberant 1952 dance musical Singin' in the Rain. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Reynolds learned to tap dance just for that role.

She is still a hoofer. And of course, a singer.

Perhaps her most famous song is "Tammy," though many will remember her for "Am I That Easy to Forget" or her renditions of a host of other standards from the popular song era.

In the first half of Saturday's concert, conductor Chelsea Tipton will lead the Toledo Symphony in a version of Leroy Anderson's "Bugler's Holiday" featuring French horn soloists (Reynolds' instrument) and Robert Wendel's comic arrangement of well-known melodies titled "The April Fools' Concerto" (Reynolds' birthday).

As to what Reynolds will be singing, that will be a surprise for even the orchestra.

Debbie Reynolds joins conductor Chelsea Tipton and the Toledo Symphony in a pops concert at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Stranahan Theater. Tickets range from $22 to $59. Information: 419-246-8000.

Contact Steven Cornelius at: scornelius@theblade.com

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