Posted in comedy, Vaudeville

Cat-titude to Spare

By Mari S. Gold

Well before David Hanbury makes his entrance as Mrs. Smith, the audience is pawsatively hysterical from the opening credits on the overhead movie screen including one announcing “Jewelry by Housing Works.”

Pictured L to R: Brandon Haagenson, David Hanbury, Ken Lear. Photo by Dan Norman.
Pictured L to R: Brandon Haagenson, David Hanbury, Ken Lear. Photo by Dan Norman.

Mrs. Smith sings and dances with her Broadway Boys, Brandon Haagenson and Ken Lear who also play musical instruments, handle puppets and wave flags. The premise of the show, Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-Tacular, at 47th Street Theater through September 20th,  is that Smith’s feline pal, a black-and-white tabby named Carlyle, went missing about two years ago. The result is a cat-induced breakdown that includes parodies of other songs (The Cat That Got Away); Skyped calls to a pet psychic and a re-enactment of Mrs. Smith’s life that includes her start in vaudeville, a world tour (well, sort of as she and Carlyle set their litter pan down in Paris, Bangkok and Poland) and fourteen husbands.

Pictured: David Hanbury. Photo by Dan Norman.
Pictured: David Hanbury. Photo by Dan Norman.

Throughout, the audience was eating (Fancy Feast) out of Mrs. Smith’s hands and would have pelted the stage with cat treats had Carlyle turned up. I wish I could be as enthusiastic about this performance as Mrs. Smith’s legions of fans. They loved every moment; me, not so much although I was very impressed with a (non-theatrical) woman summoned from her seat to join the Broadway Boys onstage who carried off her bit with great aplomb.

The show has played to delighted fans from Minneapolis to Boston and I had the feeling that for many it was a repeat visit.

David Hanbury is a New York-based writer and performer who has embodied Mrs. Smith in several other vehicles including Mrs. Smith Live! and Mrs. Smith Presents…A classically trained actor, he has done stints at the prestigious Guthrie Theater and the Actors Theater of Louisville and is also a virtuoso on the electric guitar. As Mrs. Smith, his wigs are cool, his costumes glittery and he’s full of cat-titude, much to the delight of his cheering audience who make it clear that to them he’s the cat’s pajamas.

Andrew Rasmussen, co-writer and director, has worked with numerous companies including Actors Theater of Minnesota and Laurie Bechman Theater in NYC. As an actor he has appeared on TV’s 30 Rock and Law & Order and currently working on the upcoming Broadway production of The Honeymooners.

For an evening like nothing else, Mrs. Smith and company are indeed the cat’s whiskers.

To learn more about Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-Tacular, please visit  http://www.findcarlyle.com/

Posted in cross dressing, Edwardian and Victorian Music Halls, male impersonators of the stage, singing, Vaudeville

Girls Will Be Boys

Naturally impersonation is about creating an illusion.

Jessica Walker in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” at 59E59. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” playing at 59E59 Theaters through May 19th, co-author and performer Jessica Walker salutes the women who wore the pants in Victorian and Edwardian era music halls and on America’s vaudeville stages.

These ladies in trousers, like Miss Hetty King, Ella Shields, or the 6-foot Gladys Bentley from Harlem, dressed the part but sang in their natural register. Hiding in plain sight, in men’s clothing, achieved great success and had a large following. Walker and her co-writer, Neil Bartlett suggest that their admirers were complicit co-conspirators in women-worship.

Jessica Walker in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” at 59E59. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

It’s a fact that some of these professional cross-dressers may have been lesbians. One, Annie Hindle, in fact managed a marriage by signing the certificate with a man’s name. Nice tidbit, and there are some others in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” that will amuse and edify. But, unfortunately, the historical thesis of the show is neither shocking nor all that interesting.

Joe Atkins at the piano with Jessica Walker in “The Girl I Left Behind  Me.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In full gentlemanly attire, with tails and tophat– one of several she doffs for her performance,–Walker shows off a finevoice and a nice way around a variety of musical styles, even the operatic.

“The Girl I Left Behind Me” is presented by Jess Walker Musical Theatre and is part of the Brits Off Broadway. Learn more about “The Girl I Left Behind Me”at www.59e59.org.