Bridget Everett and Murray Hill–Live in New Orleans! at One Eyed Jacks
Thanks to Presenter Daniel Nardicio, Bridget Everett and Murray Hill, two mainstays of New York’s alt-cabaret scene, recently made their joint New Orleans debut at a packed One Eyed Jacks.
Everett, star of the indie dramedy Patti Cake$ and Amazon’s Love You More, exploded onto the stage with one of her signature numbers Fck Shit Up and continued for 60 minutes with crazy tales of illicit love, subversive humor, and rocking songs belted out with massive enthusiasm.
Popping champagne corks into the air, Everett is not for the faint-hearted. Pushing the head of an audience member into her decolletage, the man was soon heard to exclaim from between her boobs, “I’m gonna suffocate.” He seemed to be enjoying himself though.
Self-described as having “beaver-tail titties,” a wardrobe malfunction early on revealed that Everett speaks truth about her anatomy. Despite her plus-size, or perhaps because of it, she fearlessly paraded through the crowd, balancing on chairs, assisted by her admirers’ willing hands to steady her.
If Everett, however, merely traded raunchily on her big body and big voice, she would have faded long ago like so many others who hope to muscle their way into the spotlight. Rather, in between full-throttled numbers (What I Gotta Do, Come And Get It), Everett put forth a bubbly mid-western personality layered with a dark side, a well-groomed persona that enthralls and intimidates. As she said, taking a swig of champagne, “I don’t drink cause I have a problem. I drink cause it’s delicious.”
Reminiscent of Sandra Bernhard, Everett alternated stories of her bizarre family in Manhattan, Kansas, with confessional tales of love gone wrong. It may have seemed like casual fun, powered by TNT, but Everett lays it out with cagy assurance leaving those of us who had heretofore been Bridget virgins able, by the end, only to gasp out a breathless “WOW!”
Opening for Everett was the impish transgender comedian Murray Hill who, with his old style humor, sends up showbiz-y performers, repurposing Borscht Belt rhythms with a potty mouth. “The more you applaud, the more I forget about my childhood,” was one of his milder lines.
Quickly breaking the fourth wall, Hill got a straight couple, a gay couple, and a lesbian couple to make out to riotous applause from the diverse crowd. He followed this with the “Murray Hill Dance Challenge” pitting a gay guy against a lesbian and a straight guy who happened to be the mayor of a small, bayou town. Years of honing his craft in NYC may not have fully prepared Hill for the Big Easy, but did make for a mirthful set.
Sure enough, the gay guy was the worst male dancer in history while the straight guy boogied with abandon drawing the audience’s cheers. Twas an unplanned and perfect lead-in to Ms. Everett.
Next up from Nardicio will be the Dworld Underwear Party at a club in the CBD on Sunday, January 14, during MLK weekend with special guest “Penis Painter” Brent Ray Fraser. Like Renoir was rumored to have done, Fraser uses his phallus to create art. Talk about Impressionism!
The Happy Elf at Slidell Little Theatre through Dec. 10
If you’re in Slidell and have some young kids and 90 minutes or so to spare and want to get into the Holiday spirit, then head over to Slidell Little Theatre (SLT) for The Happy Elf.
I realize those conditions may pare down, significantly, those of this column’s readers who might want to attend, but, well…
The Happy Elf is a stage adaptation of a 2005 TV special based on an original song by Harry Connick, Jr., who created a 14-number score for this musical. In a season often overstuffed with too many Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols, I admire SLT for trying something different and giving the regional premiere to this show.
In it, Eubie the Elf competes with nerdy Norbert to get on Santa’s sleigh team and, in the process, helps the people of Bluesville discover their inner happiness. It arrives at a sweet ending that aptly spreads the joy of the season.
Director Scott Sauber shepherds a cast of 30+ which, in true community theater style, encompasses a wide range of Slidellians from adorable tots to fleet-footed seniors. The choreography by Sauber and Clark Long effectively deploys the performers around the stage and, occasionally, into the auditorium. Sally Ann Buras’ costumes provide lots of variations on patterns of red, white and green, until the scene shifts to Bluesville and all become cloaked in blacks and other dark colors.
Mikey Willman, who excelled as Donkey in last year’s Shrek, makes a properly peppy Eubie. As the overly officious Norbert, Scott Osborn supplies just the right meanness quotient (in a humorous way) with his actual son, Zachary, perfect as Little Norbert, a kind of Mini-He.
Cara Duffaut cops a tough attitude at first as Molly, the cynical, attention-starved daughter of Bluesville’s Mayor but, ultimately, her smirk turns into a smile. Duffaut was outstanding in last year’s Beyond the Horizon at Loyola as an older neurotic widow and she is again so here in an age-appropriate role, displaying a great singing voice as well.
Hopefully, for their final weekend, SLT will have corrected some tech problems, particularly a prominent light that randomly went on and off as well as some faulty mics that plagued a recent matinee.
What I’m afraid can’t be corrected, however, is Lauren Gunderson & Andrew Fishman’s anodyne, drama-free book which has none of the unique charm of such holiday classics as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Why Connick’s somewhat snarky voice-over narration remains, other than for his celebrity presence, is beyond me.
And while clearly, were it not for Connick’s involvement, The Happy Elf would still just be an idea in developmental limbo, his wan New Orleans-flavored score lacks his charisma with easily forgettable tunes and lyrics that with a few exceptions (The What Song (cute), Two Scoops of Christmas (fun), and, yes, The Poop Hole Song) seem geared solely to 5 year-olds.
I wish I could say nicer things about The Happy Elf. But then I’d be a liar which would make me naughty. Wouldn’t want that.
New in New York
When word came that the magnificent new musical The Band’s Visit would be moving to Broadway I feared that this small gem of a show could lose some of its abundant charm in a larger theater.
Not to worry. Now settled in at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 W. 47 St.), The Band’s Visit has a bigger set and the sound seems louder, but nothing has been overdone. For those who saw it last year off-Broadway, the effect is like encountering a dear friend who’s been doing very well lately. For those who’ll come to it with new eyes, get ready to be seduced and entranced.
Based on the 2007 Israeli movie about eight Egyptian musicians (“The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra”) who arrive by mistake in a teeny Israeli desert town and have to remain overnight, it remains a small work (95 minutes with no typical razzmatazz) with a bountiful heart.
As the Egyptians and Israelis get to know each other, Itamar Moses’ skilled book interweaves three stories over the course of 24 hours, and each person in it feels wholly authentic. We see the pettiness of some, but the magnanimity of most of the others. Moses dusts it all lightly with whimsicality, but avoids even a hint of sentimentality.
David (The Full Monty) Yazbek suffuses his memorable score with minor keys and marvelous Middle Eastern influences; his brilliant lyrics are moving and witty, yet remain wholly appropriate for the characters. Phenomenally orchestrated for Western and Arabic instruments by Jamshied Sharifi, I’m avidly looking forward to the original cast album.
Under Tyler Micoleau’s haunting lighting, David Cromer’s superb direction, cinematic in scope, takes its time, allowing, through little gestures and moments of silence, the work’s beautiful longing to emerge organically.
Reprising his role as the band’s leader, Tony (Monk) Shalhoub’s understated manner belies the deepest of emotions, a wondrous stew of humility, pride, shame and dignity. Rising star Katrina Lenk, makes Dina, the proprietress of a small café, luminous and soulful and sexy and smart, her every lithe movement perfection. They and the rest of the cast, including the onstage musicians, all equally splendid, combine for countless tender moments in this heartbreakingly wonderful show.
At Studio 54 (254 W. 54 St., thru Feb. 25), John Leguizamo is holding forth in Latin History for Morons, a quasi-history lesson he wrote that those who slept through that part of high school might want to pay attention to. Leguizamo uses Latino figures from history to inspire his teenage son, who’s being bullied at school and who also has to come up with a “hero” for a school paper.
Leguizamo masterfully impersonates conquistadors and a tweedy psychologist, Aztec Emperor Moctezuma and his own jaded tween daughter. It’s a pleasure to watch him shapeshift from one to another with such precisely detailed body language and vocal tics.
Yet despite some sharp humor, as when he compares those conquistadors to “NBA players at a Kardashian pool party,” and properly anti-Trump sentiments, Latin History rarely takes off. The passages involving his son would seem better suited to an afterschool TV special, while the lesson becomes a bit repetitive as one “hero” after another fails to live up his (and it is predominantly men who are profiled) putative reputation. (And why Leguizamo even keeps offering these less-than-impressive folks to his son is confusing. Chalk it up to dramatic license, I guess.)
You don’t have to speak Spanish to fully enjoy Latin History for Morons, but it helps. And if you’re a Leguizamo fan or Latino, you’re likely to savor the show as much as my fellow audience members did whose exuberant laughter helped to add about 15 minutes to the performance’s advertised running time. Others, however, might prefer to avoid this classroom in favor of the many other things to do in New York.
And lots of things there are especially if you’re a fan of the visual arts.
Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection at The Morgan Library & Museum (225 Madison Ave. at 36 St., thru Jan. 7) is a lovely exhibition which highlights more than 150 master drawings from the Thaw Collection, one of the world’s finest private collections. Among the works by major masters from the Renaissance to the modern era, my favorites included biblical scenes from Rembrandt and Tiepolo, portraits by Fragonard and Picasso, and an endearing landscape by van Gogh.
At the Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave. at 89 St., thru Jan. 7), Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World offers something for everyone though especially for those who like conceptual and experimental works. Bracketed by the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the exhibit surveys China’s artistic culture during a time characterized by the onset of globalization and its rise on the world stage. Although the show included only a few figurative paintings, they were my favorites, all timeless and very compelling.
The Museum of Arts and Design (2 Columbus Circle thru Feb. 25) has Sonic Arcade: Shaping Space with Sound, an unusual multi-component exhibition featuring interactive installations, immersive environments, and performing objects. It’s like a wet dream for nerds.
MSHR’s Knotted Gate Presence Weave lights up in reds, greens, blues & whites while emitting lotsa sounds that are triggered by viewers’ movements. It’s uber-cool for kids of all ages. Sine Body by Julianne Swartz employs ceramic and glass, and appears visually static but captivates with an ever-changing aural flow. There’s also chic musical jewelry from Audiowear, and a Polyphonic Playground that makes music as you climb on it.
And at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery (536 W. 22 St. thru Dec. 22) fans of the grand British duo Gilbert & George will swoon over their newest body of work, The Beard Pictures. These monumental works depict the artists in symbolic beards made from beer foam, flowers, and barbed wire, interspersed with imagery of street signs, graffiti, and ginkgo trees specific to their London neighborhood of Spitalfields. Playful but serious, surreal yet knowing, they capture our times in ways simultaneously profound and mischievous. Catch them if you can.