Kaye Ballard performs her biography; Hey, Ma . . . Kaye Ballard. Written by and starring Miss Ballard. Concept, original music, and lyrics by David Levy and Leslie Eberhard. Directed by Susan H. Schulman.

Hey, folks, look at Kaye Ballard! She's singing, reminiscing, impersonating, clowning, and dancing (a little). She's doing them all in an enjoyable entertainment that combines the style of an impromptu with the elements of a large nightclub and an intimate musical.

Biographically speaking, ''Hey, Ma . . . Kaye Ballard'' begins in Cleveland when the mother of schoolgirl Catherine Balotta used to receive notes from teachers with such questions as: ''Are you aware that your daughter was not in school again today?'' The future Kaye Ballard was playing hooky at the movies, fantasizing herself in the life ''Up There,'' the song that introduces the retrospective.

Ma was definitely discouraging. She cited her daughter's generous size and lack of stellar looks as impediments to stage success. By Miss Ballard's own account, the bruises from that discouragement did not heal quickly. It was the girl's Old-World Italian grandmother who gave young Catherine, in an immigrant's broken English, the support she needed.

So it was onward and upward (and sometimes downward) with the performing arts - to Ashtabula, Detroit, and waiting worlds beyond. Beyond included a stint as flutist with a Spike Jones orchestra, an overnight London success in ''Touch and Go,'' a Broadway hit (''The Golden Apple'') and a Broadway flop (''Molly''). And much, much more. The reminiscence recalls the career ups with relish and the career downs (including TV's ''The Mothers-in-Law'') with philosophic humor.

Through it all, Miss Ballard proves herself a mature and solid performer. When she uses a mike, it is as a prop, not a crutch. Her strong, clear voice would fill a hall several times the size of the little Promenade Theatre. Her impersonations are comically on target. Now and then, she is joined by composer-performer Arthur Siegel as accompanist and fellow vocalist, an assignment he fills with impeccable aplomb. Otherwise, a reliable offstage combo does the accompanying honors. Linda Hacker's three-section setting (lighted by Ruth Roberts) incorporates a Cleveland living room, a night-club stage, and the suggestion of a playhouse interior. William Ivey Long's costumes befit the star and the generally festive occasion.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.