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September 15, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 37
 
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Bits & Bytes
Thumper's hosts three new cabarets, Peggy Platt rocks Cabaret de Paris, Kobe 'Jazz Queen' visits Jazz Alley
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer



As Emerald City entertainment fans enjoy the last few "official" days of summer, new shows dominate the calendar. ACT's A Number continues the theater's string of controversial contemporary plays. Bombay Dreams just opened its three week run at the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre, and Intiman opened Moonlight And Magnolias this week..

Thumper's Cabaret On The Hill series hosts a unprecedented cabaret line-up-three new cabaret shows opened in one week, and the popular Gay-owned restaurant/bar complex on Capitol Hill hosts cabaret shows every night of the week throughout September with seven nights of cabaret all month.

Peggy Platt just opened her Peggy Platt Song Book on the cabaret stage at Crepe de Paris in downtown, giving Seattle cabaret fans an amazing total of four new cabaret shows opening in one week. As Kander & Ebb classically wrote: "What good is sitting alone in your room/Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret, old chum/come to the cabaret."

Jazz Alley, as usual, has a busy week for Emerald City jazz fans. Mami, the "Jazz Queen" from Kobe, Japan, Seattle's original Sister City, delighted a near-capacity crowd on Monday night in a free performance. Karrin Allyson continues her week-long stay with performances through Sunday night. It's a great week for Seattle entertainment fans-and for Bits&Bytes.

TELL ME ON SUNDAY WOWS AT THUMPER'S CABARET ON THE HILL

Tell Me On A Sunday, a "new interpretation" of Andrew Lloyd Webber's award-wining London and New York smash, Song & Dance, turns out to an impressive mounting that gives a fresh and totally Gay take to the Webber song cycle, a stunning, Tony Award-winning vehicle for Bernadette Peters in its Broadway run.

Seattle's Gaydar productions, with Rick Anderson as producer, has risked a lot with Tell Me On A Sunday. Gay-themed cabarets have often used gender reversals as a standard approach-from drags queens singing "I Feel Pretty" or "I Enjoy Being A Girl" or Gay tenors tackling "The Boy Next Door" or "I'm Just A Girl Who Can't Say No." But to adapt a total show for a Gay sensibility-it's almost unprecedented.

A strong, impressive performance from Jacob Mahoney anchors the evening. He's a veteran of three Gaydar productions at Thumper's-Bed, Boys & Beyond, When Pigs Fly and Dirty Little Showtunes! Unplugged. Mahoney commands the night and took the capacity audience at Saturday's opening night on a four part saga as Allen, an English hat designer, moves to New York to live with Mr. Right. He quickly finds out that dreams don't always come true.

Musical director Mikel Poulsen deserves praise for his accomplished keyboard accompaniment He has provided musical direction for all Gaydar shows at Thumper's. Rick Anderson's direction is totally on target and illustrates, once again, how important his Gaydar shows are to Seattle's GLBT entertainment scene.

"Emma," the hat designer in the original show, turns into "Allen" with surprising ease. Gaydar cut three songs from the show-partly to tighten the show for a cabaret evening and partly because some didn't adapt as successfully as most of the songs.

Tell Me On A Sunday divides into four sections-each the saga of Allen/Emma's boyfriends in New York and Hollywood. With "Chuck," Allen arrives in New York. Even thought Chuck met him in London and sent him a airplane ticket, he is "surprised" that Allen actually shows up.

"Take That Look Off Your Face," an astonished and disappointed Allen sings and picks up his suitcase and heads off to the couch of his one British friend in New York, a woman who predicted this would/could happen. "So Much To Do In New York," Allen sings, "with no place to live and just 1,000 pounds" in savings.

Part two, "Sheldon," finds Allen in a Hollywood pink stucco palace with producer Sheldon Bloom-Sheldon and his pink mansion are "both like Liberace." Allen writes his "First Letter Home to his "mum" and tries to explain Hollywood in "Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad." It's a city where "you can rent a car/or rent a star." "You Made Me Think You Were In Love" ends his affair with Sheldon. "Fade out, exit, cut." And back to New York.

"Joe" finds Allen happily settled with "a boy from Nebraska/that I met in Macy's." Allen writes a "Second Letter Home" and sings one of the show's two big hits, "Unexpected Song," a terrific showcase for Mahoney whose winsome delivery is just right for this young Gay man who has found true love at last. As Joe's "business trips" increase, Allen hopes Joe will "Come Back With The Same Look In Your Eyes." But, of course, Joe doesn't.

The powerful "Take That Look Off Your Face" returns with different lyrics as Allen confronts a bitchy "friend" who reports on Joe's unfaithfulness. "Tell Me On A Sunday," the show's heartbreakingly beautiful best song, finds Allen pleading with Joe to make the inevitable breakup go clean-"Take me to a park that's covered with trees/Tell me on a Sunday, please."

Enter "Paul-The Married Man." It's just a fling, Allen reasons. "So Much To Do In New York" returns with a gleefulness that finds Allen happy and basically content living alone with a married man for "sometime fun." His career is booming. A "Third Letter Home" finds Allen telling "all" to his mother.

But, roles are reversed when Paul unexpectedly shows up on Allen's doorstep-he's left his wife and children for Allen. Now it's Allen's turn to sing, "Let Me Finish" to remind Paul that it's not too late to return to his wife. But, alas, Paul told her "everything," and the marriage is over. With no real expectations of life working with Paul, Allen takes him in, and the show ends with a poignant lyric, "Show me a dream/and I'll show you a nightmare." Allen's story isn't over," but Tell Me On A Sunday is.

Webber's work is terrific in Song & Dance, and Gaydar's Tell Me A Sunday adaptation works beautifully. It's a powerful, emotional work that illustrates the universality of its story in this "Gay" version.

Tell Me On A Sunday continues Thursday and Sunday nights through Oct. 8 (with a possible extension through Oct. 18). Reservations (a must), show times, other details are at 328-3800. It's one of the most successful shows in Thumper's Cabaret On The Hill history and it deserves strong support from Seattle GLBT community. Gaydar and Thumper's took a big chance on the show-and it succeeds beautifully.

FREAKSHOW! OPENS AT THUMPER'S CABARET SERIES

There is so much to like in Freakshow!-An Off-Beat Cabaret at Thumper's that there's every reason to expect the show to improve with each performance. On opening night last Friday, the show, to phrase it politely, was "not quite ready for paying customers." Reports indicate that the show improved tremendously by Saturday's second showing.

On opening night, the show bounced off every wall in The Oak Room-focus changed so fast that it was nearly impossible to tell if the pianist was cast as Phinneas Feldgrau of Phinneas Feldgrau's Freakshow! and a full cast member or just a pianist whose part grew and grew. Pianist Hans Brehmer (whose name is not listed on the show's program) was a terrific accompanist and a fun part of the show, but his role was only confusing. He often seemed to have a bigger role than co-star Cheryl Serio.

Serio and Marcus Wolland share billing in Freakshow! Both are entertainment and cabaret veterans. The show desperately needs a director, a strong director who would help shape the show and define characters and plot events. As it is, the show is a mishmash of good ideas-many of them thoroughly entertaining.

Highlights include the opening numbers, "Come Look At The Freaks" ("Come look at the freaks/only pennies a peek") and "We Share Everything" from Broadway's strange Side Show. Wolland stays in character the whole show. Part man, part woman, he's Lionel and Louisa.

Serio, a terrific entertainer with a terrific voice, gets few changes to shine. Her Countess Lucretia Crustacea is stuck with lobster-claw hands and a series of novelty numbers that do little to let her real voice shine. Later, her Chicken Girl-"a female most foul"-is all costume and clucks. Her "dangerously desirable" Queen Of The Jungle is again costume and grunts. Serio, as usual, is great fun but with little vocal opportunity to shine.

Wolland gets the evening's best numbers-especially "Making Love Alone," a cabaret classic about self-pleasure that was written as special material for Bernadette Peters at an AIDS fundraising concert in New York. Here, Wolland sings a duet by himself-Lionel and Louisa share the lyrics.

Freakshow! runs Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 23. Details and reservations at 328-3800.

100 BEAUTIFUL SONGS & 3 UGLY ONES OPENS AT THUMPER'S

Cabaret Number Three in Thumper's cabaret marathon has a fun title: 100s Of Beautiful Songs & 3 Ugly Ones. (The title, of course, is a pun on the ad campaigns of various topless clubs-100 Beautiful Girls & 3 Ugly Ones.)

Cabaret veterans Frank Kohel, Bradetta Vines and Doug Knoop team with pianist Daryl Spadaccini for the intriguing titled show. It opened too late for Bits&Bytes' SGN deadline this week-watch this space for full details. It plays Tuesday and Wednesday evenings through Sept. 27. Reservations at 328-3800.

RUBY BISHOP DELIGHTS WITH FREE CABARET

Number Four in Thumper's cabaret series is the weekly Monday night free cabaret with "Seattle legend" Ruby Bishop. Now in her mid-80s, Bishop obviously loves her weekly outing in Thumper's handsome Oak Room. Seated at the grand piano, Bishop "holds court" and plays from the Great American Songbook, Broadway showtunes, cabaret classics and honky-tonk staples.

On a recent Monday visit, Bishop opened with a stride piano version of "Moonglow" and segued into "Begin The Beguine." Audience requests brought "Little Girl Blue," "I Cover The Waterfront," "Red Sails In The Sunset." Ruby's weekly outing with Fats Waller's "Your Feets Too Big" upheld its "Favorite Of The Show" rank.

"If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)," "There, I Said It Again," a honky-tonk outing with "Up A Lazy River," "Body And Soul" "My Sweet Embraceable You," The Man I Love" brought back happy memories for the fans in the room. Bishop attracts an audience of all ages, with older fans often filling the 8 p.m. opening-many finishing dinner-with younger fans on a nostalgia kick arriving later for cocktails and entertainment. And-remember-it's all free. Reservations at 328-3800.

PEGGY PLATT ROCKS, JOKES AT CREPE DE PARIS

Seattle entertainment fans know that Peggy Platt is a force of nature. Her stand up comic routines are famous, perhaps infamous. Her work as part of various music and comic duos with Lisa Koch is legendary with music and cabaret fans. Her rare stage work is another highlight.

Her current outing, The Peggy Platt Song Book at Cabaret de Paris in downtown Seattle, is a potential hit with a Best Of Peggy Platt format. Teamed with talented pianist D. J. Gommels, Platt offers "An Evening Of Comic Songs and Silliness." Opening night found Platt "not quite ready for prime time," a problem with several of the new cabarets on the Seattle September calendar. An outside director is obviously needed to help shape and refine Platt's "greatest hits" format.

The fun begins with the sign: "Crepe de Paris Prevents The Peggy Platt Songbook." The "v" in "Prevents" is crossed out and the corrected copy, of course, reads "Presents." The handlettered sign, hopefully a temporary one until Platt can find time to hit Kinko's or a neighborhood copy mart, establishes the tongue-in-cheek concept.

Platt's opening number is a winner-acknowledging her "special vocal limits," Platt sings a parody number, "People Will Say You Can't Sing," a send-up of "People Will Say You're In Love" from Oklahoma! A full-voiced finale, "Sing On, Sing On And You'll Never Sing Alone" (new lyrics to Carousel's "You'll Never Walk Alone"), ends the number with bang.

A rousing "Happy Birthday" to a good friend ("this is the interactive part of the show," Platt adlibbed) came next-to the audience's obvious delight. "About Me" came next-a rambling tale of her incredible weight loss-"I used to weigh 500 pounds but now I'm down to 240." The recipe for Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding came next. Then a discussion of Lassie's "Johnson" and then a tale of a bathtub fall into the cat litter box ending with a new email contact: fatcatskat.com

A unexpected problem with a stage stool came next, and her adlibbed explanation, "A high stool and a low butt," broke up the audience. "The Life Of The Party"-"the fat girl's lament"-came next. "Gravity Blues," a Platt and Koch classic, followed-"my skin has fallen and it can't get up."

Gommels turned into Sonny Cash, Jr. as Platt revisited The Spudds, her show with Koch and reprised "Feudin' & Fightin' & A Fussin'." A vision in red vinyl, red bandana print, white ball-fringe, the biggest wig imaginable and the tiniest cowboy hat in Christendom, Platt's Mama Spudd was unforgettable. A song about grandma and the lawnmower, "Ride-More Queen" was another hit.

"It's washboard time," Platt gleefully announced as she broke into the musical saga of "Mama And The Devil And The Pink Chiffon Prom Dress." Another charmer. A tongue-in-cheek salute to Lawrence Welk ended the 90-minute show-you had to have been there.

Platt continues at the Cabaret de Paris at the Crepe de Paris restaurant downtown in Rainier Square with Friday and Saturday evening performances though Sept. 30. The show will obviously tighten up and some outside direction could improve things immensely. A professional poster and programs for every patron (please, Peggy, programs!) are other hoped for additions. There is so much to like&.

Reservations and complete details are available at 623-4111, Go ahead, tell 'em Bits&Bytes sent ya.

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