Dance in Review

Hell in a Handbag rings in its fifteenth-anniversary season with real magic in this hilarious spoof of the 60's and 70's TV shows we all grew up loving with its hocus-pocus focus on the show Bewitched

In this tale, Bewildered, by Aaron Benham (music and lyrics) and Ron Weaver (book and lyrics) Gladys Kravitz, the nosey neighbor of the magical family finally gets her due when she stops spying on the witch-filled household and is invited to have dinner with them. Caitlin Jackson as Gladys is splendid as she has both the musical chops to belt out every note with ease and turn the obnoxious neighbor into a sympathetic "every- woman" who feels unloved as a wife and disrespected as a person. As Gladys discovers in the surprise ending that she is magical too, her song "Leading Lady" reminds everyone in the audience to be true to themselves no matter who they are because in the end, we are ALL the leading ladies in our own lives. 

David Cerda, Hell in a Handbag, artistic director as Endora is truly at his best in this FABULOUSLY funny portrayal of Samantha's mother and steals every scene under his wig with a bat of his eyelashes and a twirl of the spectacular multi-faceted bejeweled caftans designed by Rachel Sypniewski with spot on funny as hell period wigs by Keith Ryan. Cerda as Endorra also reminds us of the ongoing plot line in the original series wherein she tries to get Samantha to leave her straight laced, sexually uninterested husband and choose from among thousands of eligible warlocks where she could live a life of magic and freedom! Instead Samantha chooses the daily humdrum dimension of the limited earth life with all its cold rules and regulations for women and men which don’t include the use of magic.

Elizabeth Morgan is adorable as Samantha and has a nice voice but needs to step out a little more with her nose twitching delightfully -  in order to keep up with the shine and glamour of wit coming full blast out of the regular cast members of Hell in a Handbag. 

As always, Ed Jones' highly anticipated presence in the show does not disappoint as Uncle Arthur and absolutely brings down the house while setting up the main story line with his wonderful rendition of "Let Yourself be a Little Gay!" Ed Jones and  David Cerda really seem to have studied their characters minute mannerisms and trademark funny bits to a tee and several times I squint my eyes and could have sworn they were channeling the original brilliant actors and actresses who played these roles on TV.  

The production handles the magic wielded by Samantha and company in a unique fashion that adds yet another jolt of humor to its audience. Bewildered also has fun with the mystery of the two Darrins who play Samantha's husbands on Bewitched in a very clever way that just has to be seen to be appreciated. 

The great thing about the superbly camp productions put on year after year by Hell in a Handbag is that no matter how bawdy they are, or how many lines of individuality they cross, they always have a positive moral underlying each show that makes you feel "pretty oh, so pretty!" in the skin that you are in!

I highly recommend seeing this fun-tastic, fast-flying production for everyone who needs a good jolt of laughter and positive affirmation about the life you are leading in these strange and hostile times.

Bewildered is being performed at Stage 773 through November 11th. For more show information visit www.handbagproductions.org.  

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to continue its 15th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of BEWILDERED, a musical parody of the classic TV sitcom Bewitched, told from the perspective of Gladys Kravitz, Samantha Stephens’ iconic nosy neighbor. Featuring a book by Ron Weaver, music and lyrics by Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver and direction and choreography by Brigitte Ditmars, BEWILDERED will play September 27 – November 11, 2017 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office. 
 
A parody and reimagining of the beloved ‘60s/‘70s television sitcom Bewitched, this spellbinding throwback is told from the point of view of Gladys Kravitz, the poor, misunderstood neighbor who keeps seeing crazy things at the home of Samantha Stephens, a beautiful witch, and her ‘ordinary family.’ Gladys’ husband Abner has had enough and is about to take drastic measures. Can Gladys prove her visions are real without destroying the Stephens family – or is she doomed to a life of pills and institutions? Gladys finally gets her due in this fun and magical musical parody.
 
BEWILDERED features ensemble members David Cerda as Endora, Caitlin Jackson as Gladys Kravitz, Ed Jones as Uncle Arthur, Michael S. Miller as Mr. Tumer and AJ Wright as Darrin G. The production also features Steve Kimbrough as Larry Tate, Matt Miles as Abner, Elizabeth Morgan as Samantha, Scott Sawa as Darrin S. and Robert Williams as Tabitha/Louise. Rounding out the cast are Kira Gaudynski, Jennifer Ledesma, Travis Monroe Neese and Sarah Taylor as Magic Stage Hands.
 
The production team for BEWILDERED includes: Roger Wykes (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Mealah Heidenreich (props design) Becca Holloway (assistant director) and Keith Ryan (wig design). 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: BEWILDERED
Book: Ron Weaver
Music and Lyrics: Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver
Director/Choreographer: Brigitte Ditmars
Cast: David Cerda (Endora), Kira Gaudynski (Magic Stage Hand), Caitlin Jackson (Gladys), Ed Jones (Uncle Arthur), Steve Kimbrough (Larry Tate), Jennifer Ledesma (Magic Stage Hand), Matt Miles (Abner), Michael S. Miller (Mr. Tumer), Elizabeth Morgan (Samantha), Travis Monroe Neese (Magic Stage Hand), Scott Sawa (Darrin S.), Sarah Taylor (Magic Stage Hand), Robert Williams (Tabitha/Louise) and AJ Wright (Darrin G.).
 
Location: Stage 773 (Box Theater), 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Wednesday, September 27 at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm, Friday, September 29 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, September 30 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, October 5 – Saturday, November 11, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Sunday, October 15 due to Handbag’s Annual Benefit.
Special Halloween Show: Tuesday, October 31 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: Previews $22 in advance ($25 at door). Regular run $34 in advance ($39 at door). Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling 773-327-5252, or in person at the Stage 773 box office. 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Black Button Eyes Productions is pleased to present the Chicago storefront premiere of SHOCKHEADED PETER, the silly and sinister musical based on Heinrich Hoffmann's popular German children’s book The Struwwelpeter. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Ed Rutherford with music direction by T.J. Anderson, SHOCKHEADED PETER was created for the stage by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott with original music and lyrics by The Tiger Lillies. SHOCKHEADED PETER will play August 11 – September 16, 2017 at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at athenaeumtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. The press opening is Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 pm. Note: recommended for ages 13+.
 
SHOCKHEADED PETER features Ellen DeSitter, Kat Evans, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Caitlin Jackson, Cody Jolly, Josh Kemper, Genevieve Lerner, Pavi Proczko, Stephanie Stockstill, Gwen Tulin, Kevin Webb and Anthony Whitaker.
 
A sinister but incompetent master of ceremonies leads the audience through the tale of a childless couple that has their fondest wish granted in the most delightfully dreadful way imaginable, accompanied by vignettes in which the hilariously horrible fates that befall naughty children everywhere are brought to darkly comedic life.
 
The production team for SHOCKHEADED PETER includes: Jeremiah Barr (scenic design, props design, puppetry and technical director), Beth Laske-Miller (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), John Mathias (sound design), Derek Van Barham (movement director) and Alexa Berkowitz (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: SHOCKHEADED PETER
Created for the stage by: Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott
Original Music and Lyrics by: The Tiger Lillies
Adapted from: Heinrich Hoffmann's The Struwwelpeter
Director: Ed Rutherford
Music Director: T.J. Anderson
Cast: Ellen DeSitter, Kat Evans, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Caitlin Jackson, Cody Jolly, Josh Kemper, Genevieve Lerner, Pavi Proczko, Stephanie Stockstill, Gwen Tulin, Kevin Webb and Anthony Whitaker.
 
Location: The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
Dates: Preview: Friday, August 11 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Sunday, August 13 – Saturday, September 16, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2 pm. 
Tickets: $32. Students $17 (includes $2 Athenaeum Theatre restoration fee). Tickets are currently available at athenaeumtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. Note: recommended for ages 13+.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Hell in a Handbag Productions, now celebrating its 15th Anniversary Season, is pleased to announce casting for the world premiere of BEWILDERED, a musical parody of the classic TV sitcom Bewitched, told from the perspective of Gladys Kravitz, Samantha Stephens’ iconic nosy neighbor. 
 
BEWILDERED will feature ensemble members David Cerda as Endora, Caitlin Jackson as Gladys Kravitz, Ed Jones as Uncle Arthur, Michael S. Miller as Mr. Tumer and AJ Wright as Darrin G. The production also features Steve Kimbrough as Larry Tate, Matt Miles as Abner, Elizabeth Morgan as Samantha, Scott Sawa as Darrin S. and Robert Williams as Tabitha/Louise. Rounding out the cast are Kira Gaudynski, Jennifer Ledesma, Travis Monroe Neese and Sarah Taylor as Magic Stage Hands.
 
Featuring a book by Ron Weaver, music and lyrics by Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver and direction and choreography by Brigitte Ditmars, BEWILDERED will play September 27 – November 11, 2017 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office. The press opening is Sunday, October 1 at 7 pm.
 
A parody and reimagining of the beloved ‘60s/‘70s television sitcom Bewitched, this spellbinding throwback is told from the point of view of Gladys Kravitz, the poor, misunderstood neighbor who keeps seeing crazy things at the home of Samantha Stephens, a beautiful witch, and her ‘ordinary family.’ Gladys’ husband Abner has had enough and is about to take drastic measures. Can Gladys prove her visions are real without destroying the Stephens family – or is she doomed to a life of pills and institutions? Gladys finally gets her due in this fun and magical musical parody.
 
The production team for BEWILDERED includes: Roger Wykes (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Mealah Heidenreich (props design) Becca Holloway (Assistant Director) and Keith Ryan (wig design). 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: BEWILDERED
Book: Ron Weaver
Music and Lyrics: Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver
Director/Choreographer: Brigitte Ditmars
Cast: David Cerda (Endora), Kira Gaudynski (Magic Stage Hand), Caitlin Jackson (Gladys), Ed Jones (Uncle Arthur), Steve Kimbrough (Larry Tate), Jennifer Ledesma (Magic Stage Hand), Matt Miles (Abner), Michael S. Miller (Mr. Tumer), Elizabeth Morgan (Samantha), Travis Monroe Neese (Magic Stage Hand), Scott Sawa (Darrin S.), Sarah Taylor (Magic Stage Hand), Robert Williams (Tabitha/Louise) and AJ Wright (Darrin G.).
 
Location: Stage 773 (Box Theater), 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Wednesday, September 27 at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm, Friday, September 29 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, September 30 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, October 5 – Saturday, November 11, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Special Halloween Show: Tuesday, October 31 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: Previews $22 in advance ($25 at door). Regular run $34 in advance ($39 at door). Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling 773-327-5252, or in person at the Stage 773 box office. 
 
About the Creative Team
 
Ron Weaver (Book, Music and Lyrics) moved to Chicago 18 years ago as an Equity Stage Manager at The Writers Theatre in Glencoe. A long-time fan of Hell in a Handbag Productions, he is currently working as box office manager at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, and on numerous other theatrical projects. Ron holds an MFA in Theatre Technology and Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. This is his first play to be produced.
 
Aaron Benham (Music and Lyrics) First time in the bag!  Chicago credits: Side Show, Scottsboro Boys, Putting it Together (Porchlight); Xanadu (ATC); The Wild Party (Jeff Award), Carrie (Bailiwick Chicago); Always Patsy Cline, A Tribute to the Andrews Sisters (Jeff Award) (Theo-Ubique); also work with About Face, Chicago Opera Theater, Montana Shakespeare, Second City, Writers. BFA, Emerson College.
 
Brigitte Ditmars (Director/Choreographer) is a proud Handbag Alumni having performed in several Handbag productions including the original Poseidon! An Upside-Down Musical, multiple Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeers and originated the role of Mary Anderson in the 2006 production of Caged Dames. She provided choreography for countless other Handbag productions including multiple incarnations of Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, the original Lady X and the 2010 remount of Poseidon! An Upside-Down Musical, for which she received a Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination. Previous directing credits include Rock of Ages (Timber Lake Playhouse); Maybe Baby, It's You and Nunsense (Fox Valley Repertory); Model 736 (Collaboraction). She has received two Joseph Jefferson Awards for Achievement in Choreography for Reefer Madness (Circle Theatre) and Pinafore! (Bailiwick Repertory), as well as three additional nominations. Notable choreography credits include Peter and the Starcatcher (Metropolis Performing Arts Center); Xanadu (American Theatre Company); The Producers (Mercury Theatre); American Idiot (Northwestern University); Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (Theater Wit); Hey! Dancin'! Hey! Musical! (Factory Theatre); Cinderella (Emerald City Children’s Theatre); Forever Plaid (Fox Valley Repertory); Improbable Frequency (Strawdog Theatre).
 
About Hell in a Handbag Productions

Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.
 
For additional information, visit www.handbagproductions.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Set in the 1930's, this melodrama has all the ingredients you'd expect, sex, drugs, murders and the quick, clever banter of women fighting for their lives in a film noir-colored seedy underworld of a dance hall/nightclub/whorehouse.

 

In the latest Hell in a Handbag production "Lady X - The Musical", director and writer/composer David Cerda plays Scarlet stunningly dressed in delicious blood-red with all of the oomph, hilarity and confident power of his Joan Crawford character. Cerda really is the sun around which all of the talented planets in his cast revolve and he does it with great force and superb dry humor that trumps all and anchors the show with fear of the ultimate female "mob boss" that Hell in a Handbag fans have come to love and expect. Like Cerda says at the end of the show, "Hell in a Handbag is not just a theatre company it's a cult!" 

 

Christea Parent as Mary Dwight, is Lady X whose innocent younger sister comes to town to finish school but ends up tragically caught in the champagne filled "make it rain" dollars mentality. Christea Parent is unbelievably on point as the leader of the dames, the only one with a real purpose in life and the brains enough to stay out of the clutches of the gross "john” and the abusive bosses who take over the club by murdering the previous owner. 

 

Christea Parent, with the help of Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s fabulous period costumes, Keith Ryan’s hysterical and yet perfectly designed and coiffed wigs and Sydney Genco’s detailed makeup designs, (right down to the different types of fake eyelashes for each character) dominates the show with her singing, dancing and fast-talking character reminiscent of Barbara Stanwyck. I was dazzled by her mastery of the period acting while keeping her character both funny and deserving of compassion at every level.  

 

Almost all of my Hell in a Handbag fave performers were featured well in this production like Ed Jones, as Estelle, the "oldest whore" in the bunch. Jones is hysterical as always with his slightly breathy, tongue-in-cheek, sympathetic "grandmom” character of the group. Estelle, despite her age has found her perfect baby boy lover in the young Val, played with adorable youthful energy by another Handbag regular, handsome Chazie Bly. Their duet, “A Lovely Pair”, got some of the biggest laughs in the show's numbers and the perfect casting made their May/December romance absolutely understandable and even enviable. 

 

Caitlin Jackson, who blew me AWAY as “Bette, LIVE at the Continental Baths” a few months ago at Theater Wit is Gabby. Her aging and wise Betty Boop-style character is fully formed, lovable and again Jackson brought down the house with her amazing voice during the showstopper “Flim Flam Floozy”.

 

 Elizabeth Lesinski another Hell in a Handbag regular does an amazing job in her role, her comedic touch as perfect as ever. 

 

Wide-eyed director Steve Love enters the show to co-star as Betty Dwight, Mary’s naive kid sister who Mary is trying to keep in school and off the streets. Love is a breath of fresh air in the snake pit of despair these women swim in as the hopeful innocent, tap dancing her way into the audience’s hearts. 

 

Laura Coleman, one of the women playing a man characters is really funny and sharp as Frank Gorham, the attorney seeking justice of his own while Adrian Hadlock, also plays several characters and is really ingenious in his multi-layered portrayals of Crandall, Louie and the Judge.

 

“Lady X” has so many fun and wonderful twists and turns, it would be shame to spoil them all by giving them away, but suffice it to say David Cerda has once again created a whole new world all his own where the lines between male and female, innocent and guilty are marvelously blurred to show the vulnerability of all humankind when pressed to fight for their lives, livelihood and self-respect.

 

Cerda’s play is full of belly laughs from beginning to end and contains several very touching song numbers, like white picket fence, flower-filled "The House on the Hill", which all the women dream of retiring to, the song rounding out the hilarity with genuine sentiment. 

 

"Lady X" is destined to become another Hell in a Handbag hit.  

 

I highly recommend “Lady X"  for ladies , gentlemen and flim flam floozies everywhere seeking to escape from the horrors of the current political landscape facing the LGTBQ community and instead be surrounded by a joyous, celebration of strong women from all walks of life and the dangers they faced in the 30's as well as the dangers they face now.

 

“Lady X - The Musical" is being performed at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville through June 17th. For more show information or to purchase tickets visit http://www.handbagproductions.org/.   

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Are you old enough to remember Saturday morning cartoons? I mean when there was no other place or time on TV to watch three hours of children's cartoon TV shows? Well, if you are, like me, you'll remember the "Scooby Doo" show whose lead character was a talking dog who rolled with the teenage mystery solvers from Mystery Inc. 

 

In "Skooby Don't" written by David Cerda, Artistic Director of the wonderful Hell In a Handbag Production Company, every hysterical aspect of the original show is poked at, like the fact that Scooby and his pal Shaggy both look and act like stoners the whole time and that the whole gang runs screaming in fear every time they finally confronted a ghost/monster.

 

But Cerda as always, takes a funny satire and turns it into a touching and even educational LGBTQ production that leaves the whole audience with something interesting and uplifting to ponder over long after they've left the theater. 

 

In order to stay safe of copyright laws the characters names have been slightly changed to even funnier names. Daphne is called Daffy played delightfully by ensemble member Elizabeth Lesinsky, smart and sassy Velma is now Velva (or “Vulva”) also very funnily played by Caitlin Jackson. I recently reviewed Ms. Jackson in her role as Bette Midler and she has an AMAZING singing voice as well. Fred is Fredd with two D’s, Shaggy becomes Scaggy and Scooby Doo trades in his “C” for a “K,” becoming Skooby and instead becomes “Don’t”. Cerda even jokes at one point about the subtle changes.

 

When Velva decides to take the whole gang to her aunt's house for a reunion vacation her aunt turns out to be Cher! Cher played by ensemble member Ed Jones is joined by two famous contemporary house guests Caitlyn Jenner (Chazie Bly), Kris Jenner (Cerda) and Cher’s disgruntled bellboy/son Chaz (Caitlin Boho). With this wild cast of characters only Cerda could put together, it doesn’t take long before a zany mystery ensues and the gang quickly becomes detectives.

 

This quartet of famous faces was absolutely a collection the funniest bits in the whole show. Ed Jones makes the BEST, funniest, tongue to lip touching Cher I have ever seen! David Cerda as Kris Jenner and Chazie Bly as Caitlynn Jenner have all the gestures and voice patterns down pat while Caitlin Boho who plays a plump, unshaven Chaz, had me laughing out loud with almost every single line she delivered. 

 

Kudos and credit must go to their AMAZING costumer Kate Setzer Kamphausen and Hell in a Handbag's wig master Keith Ryan because their makeup and hair fit EVERY character to a tee! 

 

People ask me why I enjoy Cerda's characters so much, enough to go to every production they put on without question and the reason is simple. They are always brilliantly funny. Add the fact that if these men and women can do such a great job of playing full on "dress up" and do it with such care and relish, it always makes me feel that SOMEONE else understands how hard it is to be a woman!

 

Cerda's characters don't make fun of women, they celebrate women and men of all kinds, sizes and shapes and even though they have to wear a lot of makeup, wigs and six inch heels they do it because they ENJOY doing all the things they associate with being women. David Cerda has a wonderful and blessed knack for creating female characters in his plays, even those beautiful women with "resting bitch face" - like his very popular Joan Crawford - to be  worthy of love and respect by the end of each show.

 

The entire cast including the supporting roles were dynamite. Cerda, Jones and Lesinsky just seems to get funnier and funnier with each production, this time capturing the precise essence of the vain and ditzy Daffy. In Skooby Don’t, Cerda puts forth yet another all-around stellar ensemble, perfectly casting the Mystery Gang and guest characters. 

 

I highly recommend this fun, campy yet sympathetic piece, which is kind of like a transgender Halloween party! Skooby Don’t is currently being performed at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville. For tickets, showtimes and more show information, visit www.Handbag productions.org.

Published in Theatre Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this Hell in a Handbag Production starring the divine Caitlin Jackson, as the “Divine Miss M”, Bette Midler. The show takes us to the early days of Midler's career playing for gay audiences at the Continental baths for two years before her album, The Divine Miss M was released. 

 

Back in 1987 when I moved to New York after college I actually lived in The Ansonia for four years, a pre- war luxury building on New York's upper west side. I heard about the history of the building which included an entire circus complete with live elephants at one time living in the penthouse, and always wished I could have lived there in its heyday, when The Continental Baths was a gay bathhouse in the basement of The Ansonia Hotel, which was opened in 1968 by Steve Ostrow.

 

The features of this bathhouse included a disco dance floor, a cabaret lounge, sauna rooms, a narrow "Olympia Blue" swimming pool, bunk beds in public areas, and tiny rooms as one would find in any bathhouse. The facility had the capacity to serve nearly 1,000 men, 24 hours a day.

 

Jackson's MC, played adorably by Chad, mentions just a few of the features of the bathhouse like a vending machine which dispensed among other things KY Jelly, and a warning system that tipped off patrons when police arrived. He also points out an STD clinic, a supply of a lice-killing shampoo in the showers and how the hetero general public discovered the great shows going on underground and “ruined the scene". The baths were advertised as reminiscent of "the glory of ancient Rome".

 

Caitlin Jackson really captures the outrageous, open-minded spirit of Bette Midler. Most importantly though Jackson has the voice to really do justice to Midler’s renditions of “Superstar”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and a sexy, bawdy cover of Bessie Smith’s “Empty Bed Blues”. Jackson also shines in her performances of “Chapel of Love”, “Hey Mambo” and delivered a heart wrenching, yet uplifting, “You Gotta Have Friends”.

 

Few people know that Barry Manilow was Bette Midler's accompanist during these years. Talk about two superstars finding each other at the right time! Jeremy Ramey as Barry Manilow is hysterical and really gets some great laughs as he plays the piano and captures the talented artist’s well known panache and flash. 

The show is filled out with the MC and two cutie pie twinks clad only in white towels the entire show played by TJ Crawford and Will Wilhelm. Although they are the author's invention they seem perfectly part of the show, giving Bette (Jackson) time to change in and out of her glamorous bosom enhancing outfits for number after great number. 

 

I really have to hand it to Caitlin Jackson, whose voice is capable of hitting Midler's high and low notes with seeming ease. Jackson also does her best in this slightly short production (1 hour 15 minutes with one intermission) to convey Bette Midler's HUGE personality and deeply penetrating sense of loneliness and compassion for the “cast outs” of the world - the ones "waiting on the corner for their friends to return."

 

Even if the songs were not actually part of Midler's bath house days, I left yearning to hear more, simply because Caitlin Jackson's voice was such a JOY to listen to and her face a wonderful mirror of Bette Midler's enthusiasm for life and love of the gay community without ever becoming a caricature.

 Highly Recommended. 

Bette, Live at the Continental Baths is being performed at Stage 773 through September 10th. More show info can be found at www.stage773.com. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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