Jeff Goldblum Brings Cabaret Act to Beverly Hills

Jeff Goldblum - S 2015
Courtesy of Robyn Von Swank

The 'Independence Day: Resurgence' star leads his Mildred Snitzer Orchestra in inaugural cabaret series at the Wallis.

Like most good boys in his Pittsburgh neighborhood growing up, Jeff Goldblum took piano lessons to keep out of trouble. To his surprise, he liked it so much he started calling cocktail lounges and booked a few gigs, even though he was only 15 years old. These days he’s best known for tentpoles like Jurassic Park and Independence Day, as well as his idiosyncratic manner off camera.

But Goldblum never gave up playing piano. In fact, he has a regular weekly gig at Los Feliz’s Rockwell Table and Stage, provided he’s not out of town on location. But this weekend, he and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, (a quintet named for his childhood neighbor), bring their show, Holidays. No Ice. to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for one night only, Dec. 19.

“We do something where it’s sort of become this living room happening kind of thing where there’s much involvement with the audience,” Goldblum tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We play games of one kind or another and we talk and I have nothing planned.” And no plans are needed, as he sings standards with audience members or does a cold dramatic reading of whatever text exchange they have on their phone. Or he might even break into the Jurassic Park theme song with lyrics he found on the internet: “It’s Jurassic Park, scary after dark. I’m so scared that I’ll get eat-ten.”

It’s all kind of goofy, except when it’s not, like when they’re playing classics by Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk, or selections from the American songbook. Twenty years ago, Goldblum and fellow actor Peter Weller occasionally played together when Weller got a tip from Woody Allen while working on Mighty Aphrodite. The director advised him to pursue a regular gig like the one he has at Café Carlysle in New York, where he still plays every Monday night with his New Orleans Jazz Band.

Goldblum and Weller followed his advice, though soon the latter dropped out, Goldblum did not. He even managed to book them at the Carlysle a few years ago. The night before their gig, they went to check out the room and watched Allen play, only to wind up joining him and the band for a couple of songs. “It was a thrill for me, a total thrill!” laughs Goldblum.

“He makes it up as he goes along. He’s a talker,” offers the Wallis’ Patti Wolff, who organized the new series after the success of last season’s Love, Noel: The Letters and Songs of Noel Coward, presented cabaret-style in the venue’s more intimate Lovelace Studio Theatre. “A cocktail in your hand is different than sitting in a proper theater. Our goal was to create a cabaret series that would speak to a lot of different versions of that.”

Running the gamut from Goldblum’s lounge lizard antics to Ute Lemper’s renditions of Weimar era classics, or Broadway star Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), singing an all-Sondheim program earlier this month, to Our Lady J (Transparent), appearing Dec. 18, the series closes with Big Noise from Winnetka, featuring chanteuse Christine Ebersole (42nd Street), on Jan. 25.

Goldblum would like to hang around and see them all but he’s off to New York for another taping of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, then back to L.A., then Paris and back in January. And this after disappearing last summer into a New Mexico desert for Independence Day: Resurgence, the sequel to the 1996 blockbuster, also directed by Roland Emmerich. In it, Goldblum revives his role as quirky scientist David Levinson opposite a new love interest portrayed by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

“I feel always on the threshold of my most enjoyable work and output,” he says, anticipating his opening number (still unknown to him), with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. “I make a game for myself and see if I can guess what they’re playing. The whole thing is a surprise ride for me. Then I hang around and take pictures with everybody.”