Archive for the Singing Comediennes Category

Tonight! Mad Jenny’s Weimar Girls!

Posted in Comedy, Contemporary Variety, German, PLUGS, Singers, Singing Comediennes with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2017 by travsd

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Mink Stole: It’s Merry Christmas, Dammit

Posted in Christmas, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Singers, Singing Comediennes, Women with tags , , on December 11, 2016 by travsd

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Three Christmas Cheers for Dreamland Diva Mink Stole!

We had the great good fortune to see her Holiday Cabaret It’s Merry Christmas, Dammit at the Cutting Room last night and want to sing its praises.

The actual set was almost identical to the one we caught two years ago (read about that one here). With these noticeable differences:

  • Last time was at the Laurie Beechman. This version was at the much larger, swankier Cutting Room, giving the whole thing an honest to God concert feel, with an elevated stage, a better sound system, and a much larger audience — and even so, they packed ’em in last night. To paraphrase W.C. Fields, the audience had to clap up and down instead of sideways.
  • What an interesting, sobering experiment, to watch the same performer do the same show on either side of the catastrophic 2016 election. There is no escape from the dreaded Orange Taint: you go places, you run into friends, and you metaphorically or literally HOLD each other as tight as you can and share your fears and worries and anger and little accidental words of encouragement which you both quickly shoot down because the scale of the horribleness is too vast to be adequately confronted no matter WHAT happens. So….a lot of her show was like that. The set list and some of the patter was the same, but Mink kvetched and beat her chest and worried aloud about the state of the world and we joined her, and nothing has ever felt so WEIMAR. It’s like we were huddled in one of those Berlin night spots with the clock running out and goons roaming the streets just waiting for their cue to kick our heads in. It gave momentousness to her performance. Not that she was strident or self-importantly “political”. She was just honest and down-to-earth, and that’s one of her greatest assets as a performer. You feel like you know her, like she’s talking to you. In one way it’s consoling. In another way….what’s more terrifying than knowing that the hundreds of people in the room are also terrified?
  • Speaking of Weimar, I think I noticed a lot more vibrato in her performance, a bit of the old Lotte Lenya, and I loved it
  • There was a different bass player this time, and this one needs to CALM. DOWN. It’s too much to claim he was upstaging the singer, but…he came close. I was aware of the bass playing the entire time; it sounded like John Entwhistle or something. It didn’t bug me precisely. He seems a capable musician, but, yeah the dude was pulling focus.
  • Mink, please tell John to finally make FRUITCAKE, and to give you a nice, big part because you’re awesome. Oh, but I bet you’ve already done that. In just those words!
  • Read Scott Stiffler’s terrific profile/interview with Mink Stole in Gay City News, in which she talks about the Christmas show and much else, here: http://gaycitynews.nyc/mink-stole-christmas/

Stars of Vaudeville #1012: Norma Terris

Posted in Broadway, Impressionists, Singers, Singing Comediennes, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Norma Terris (Norma Allison, 1904-1989).

Originally from Kansas, Terris started out in vaudeville performing singing celebrity impressions, an act that sounds not unlike that of Elsie Janis. I see it claimed in various places that she was featured in the Ziegfeld Follies, however my own Follies resources (bills for each year) and IBDB don’t reflect that. She may have been a replacement, or toured with the show. However, she was definitely featured doing her impersonation specialty in two Shubert revues A Night in Paris (1926) and A Night in Spain (1927). This lead to her best known theatrical credit: she was the original Magnolia and Kim in the first productions of Show Boat (1927-1929 and 1932). She was tried in two Hollywood features, Married in Hollywood (1929) and Cameo Kirby (1930), but apparently she did not click in pictures; when films were made of Show Boat in 1929 and 1936, she was passed over.

She starred in a couple more short-lived Broadway shows (her last was in 1938), then sang for ten seasons with the Municipal Opera Company in St. Louis. After this she retired to Connecticut with her husband. Ironically, it is her activity during this “retirement” for which she may be best known today, for she became heavily involved, both as a singer and a benefactor, with the Goodspeed Opera Company, which named one of its theatre buildings in her honor.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Stars of Vaudeville #1008: Marie Loftus

Posted in British Music Hall, Irish, Singers, Singing Comediennes, Variety Theatre, Women with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2016 by travsd

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 Marie Loftus (1857-1940) was known as the “Sarah Bernhardt of the Music Halls” . Born in Glasgow to Irish parents, she grew up near the Scotia Music Hall, which is where she began dancing as a young girl. As a singing single she first appeared at Brown’s Royal Music Hall by age 17. Within three years she had made it to London. Loftus possessed a stout, buxom figure which was of a sort very much in vogue with Victorian audiences at the time. Like many music hall singers, her repertoire contained suggestive material that some frowned upon. But she remained popular in her native Glasgow, even as she became a national star on the London stages, both in music hall and as a Principal Boy in Pantomime. Her fame became international when she began to tour American vaudeville and the halls of South Africa. By the 1890s she was earning 100 pounds a week. Her daughter Cissie Loftus (1876-1943) would prove just as famous.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Tonight at the Duplex: Vintage, Bawdy Blues!

Posted in Contemporary Variety, PLUGS, Singers, Singing Comediennes, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , on October 8, 2016 by travsd

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Tammy Faye Starlite is Back (and My Rave About Her is Up)

Posted in Art Stars, Comedy, Contemporary Variety, Crackers, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Indie Theatre, Jews/ Show Biz, Singers, Singing Comediennes with tags , , , , , , on September 21, 2016 by travsd

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I caught opening night of Tammy Faye Starlite in Holy War 2016 at Pangea and it was every bit as dazzling as I knew it would be. Read my rave here in Chelsea Nowhttp://chelseanow.com/2016/09/the-transcendent-tension-of-tammy-faye-starlite/

The Overshare Cabaret

Posted in Comedy, Contemporary Variety, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Indie Theatre, PLUGS, Singers, Singing Comediennes with tags , , , on September 9, 2016 by travsd

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It may be as long as ten years ago since I last saw my old friend Mel Delancey on stage. Let’s just say that it was long enough ago that she was still in an improv troupe with her (now ex) husband and their headline act was John Oliver — try and book him nowadays, anybody I know! And I won’t “age” us both by revealing how far we go back, although I can divulge that it was in Ian W. Hill’s adaptation of Ed Wood’s The Violent Years, I believe. Mel and I even had a “making out” scene, although I never actually touched her face, for fear that I would smear my pencil-thin mustache. Anyway, in the years since then, she’s gotten divorced, and gone on 150 failed Tinder dates, which she made a show about and was reported in this NY Post article last year.

Thanks for taking this last night, whoever took this!

Thanks for taking this last night, whoever took this!

After months of good intentions, I finally got over to see her Overshare Cabaret at 13th Street Rep last night, and had a capital time. It is exactly what the name suggests: a cabaret-style variety show, with occasional forays into the embarrassing — usually the sexually embarrassing. It dances around the boundaries in a playful way, but I will say that you’re mighty square indeed if her envelope-pushing is too much for you (although she definitely pushes it).

One thing I particularly love about the show is its raw informality. It is precisely my preferred aesthetic, relaxed, inclusive, friendly and almost family like, and with almost no line at all between the stage and the audience.  My bete noir is technology in the theatre, and I especially hate microphones and amplifiers which to my mind separate performers from audience in an intrusive way. In Mel’s show, performers are unplugged and lettin’ it all hang out, right over there. Things they are not: perfect, artificial, soulless, song production superhuman gymnasts. Things they are: funny, charming, lovable, accessible, natural.

Last night’s theme was “Shame and Scandal” and was co-hosted by Amy Overman, who sort of played Ed McMahon to Mel’s Johnny (now I’m definitely dating myself), and also drank real or pretend vodka by the tumblerful, and recited Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. The show opened on a strong note with Mel’s rewritten version of “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks (the jist of which can be gleaned from the fact that the recurring verse-ending word “follow” is here replaced with “swallow”). Other treats included our own Bob Laine, doing a crazy acid fueled monologue. I’d heard that he used to do these monologues years ago, but in all this time I’d never heard one. It did not disappoint, as it was hilarious, crazy and profound in its way all at the same time. We got to meet Mel’s sister Jennifer Delancey who also sang on the bill…aas well aas her old high school friend “Goobs”, who sang “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend” by The Mr. T. Experience...the HIGHLY entertaining Evelyn Sullivan pulled off (pulled out?) the evening’s most polished all around performance in a turn that included great patter, vocals, comic chops, and (miraculously) male full frontal…Katelyn Bailey sang Gilda Radner’s “Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals”…Bryanna Tyson and Peter Graham sang Kander and Ebb’s “Money” from Cabaret …and the whole cast sang Cole Porter’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. This was just some of it.

They’re doing it again tomorrow (September 10) and the show returns in new editions with new casts every month. To stay in the Mel Delancey loop, go here.

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