Though in this country she's best known for her seven-year, Emmy Award-winning stint as Dorothy Zbornak in television's The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur in fact has a not inconsiderable theatrical pedigree.

She started out her career understudying Tallulah Bankhead, starred opposite the legendary Lotte Lenya in the 1954 US premiere of Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera, originated the role of Yente the Matchmaker in the original 1964 Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, and won a Tony Award for her performance as Vera Charles opposite Angela Lansbury's Mame in 1966. Until she first did this one-woman show in New York in 2002, the last of those was also the last time she appeared on a Broadway stage for a serious theatrical run.

It's that 37-year absence - as Arthur abandoned the stage for the greater riches and celebrity of television sitcom - that registers as something of a loss not only to the New York theatre, but also to her life as a performer: watching her on stage at the Savoy, you can only ponder what might have been. (All her life, for instance, she wanted to get to play Mamma Rose in Gypsy, and here, finally, fulfils a tiny part of that ambition with a First Act curtain song from it.)

This isn't to underestimate the achievements of a woman who brought laughter to millions - millions more than might ever have seen her on a stage. But next to the abrasive, shockingly personal journey of fellow Broadway Baby Elaine Stritch's life that we recently followed in {Elaine Stritch at Liberty::E8821034237585} at the Old Vic, Bea Arthur at the Savoy is tame, often lame, stuff.

Admittedly, Stritch's show - devised and directed by John Lahr and George C Wolfe respectively - set the bar for the one-person confessional show so high that it's difficult for any other show to come near. Still, the difference is palpable. Whereas you applaud Arthur, now 80, for simply being here, you applauded Stritch for getting here. The latter offered an achingly truthful tale of survival as she was stalked by demons of low self-esteem and drink. Stritch was also an innate storyteller, with great stories to tell, which she told with unflagging energy.

Arthur's show, by contrast, is nothing more than an amiable stroll down memory lane, created by Arthur and her endearing accompanist Billy Goldenberg, in collaboration with Charles Randolph Wright, and directed by Mark Waldorp. Often delivered from a stately comfy armchair, it's an agreeable evening with a hugely likeable star. There are a few ribald moments, but no killer punches. One of the best lines comes from the programme: "After being in the business a long time," says Bea, "I've done everything but rodeo and porn".

- Mark Shenton