The last time that Jim Dale appeared in London was as Fagin in Oliver! at the London Palladium in 1996. The British-born entertainer who made his home in the US returns to the West End in a one-man show appropriately entitled Just Jim Dale, directed by Richard Maltby Jr. The show originated in New York and played off-Broadway last year, and plays for 30 performances at the Vaudeville Theatre, where the 79 year old Dale made his London debut exactly 50 years ago.

Dale has written the show himself – he sings, dances and jokes his way through a two hour show with amazing agility. He is, first and foremost, a tremendous raconteur and there is a great physicality to his comedy – Dale’s father advised him to study movement in order to be an actor and this is evident in the way the tall, slim Dale moves around the stage. But Dale also brings to life a whole era of British entertainment, from the music halls, where he started as a 17 year old comedian, onwards. Dale’s ease in breaking the fourth wall and talking to an audience emanate from that early experience too.

It’s hard to think of a performer who has had as varied a career as Dale, who went from playing the music halls to a brief brush with pop success, progressing to acting opposite Laurence Olivier in Shakespeare plays at the National Theatre. More recently he has been heard as the narrator of the audio Harry Potter books for the American market, where his ability to use different character voices earned him a Guinness World Record.

On the musical stage, Dale originated the title role in Cy Coleman’s Barnum, for which he won the Tony Award. The three songs that Dale recalls from that score are particular highlights of the evening – there’s something unique about hearing the original artist and creator of the role revisit them so many years later, and Dale’s voice and style are ideal for the part of the ultimate showman. Another show that Dale played on Broadway, Me and My Girl, is also recalled with affection in song, Dale having seen the original production starring Lupino Lane many years earlier as a young boy. Dale also sings the hit song ‘Georgy Girl’ for which he wrote the lyrics, and is accompanied on all his vocal numbers by his pianist, Mark York.

But it’s the Carry On films for which Dale is arguably most famous – he appeared in a total of eleven. Earlier this week, the iconic image from Carry On Doctor of Dale inspecting Barbara Windsor’s cleavage was recreated, albeit less scantily clad than the original, when the stars were reunited after some 40 years. Dale imitates a waspish Kenneth Williams, who proved to be one of his greatest supporters, and shows a video medley of his greatest Carry On stunts – most of which were shot on the last day of filming for obvious reasons.

Throughout his career, Dale’s interest has been in how to connect to an audience through humour – and he certainly succeeds in doing that here. A strength of Just Jim Dale is that it is accessible to everyone, whether familiar with Dale’s work or not – and that’s the mark of a true entertainer.