Cabaret Chronicles - Busy, Busy: Part 1

by Michael Barbieri
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The last couple of months have been very busy!  I’ve had a great time seeing some fantastic acts around town.  Here is a little rundown:

Miss Richfield 1981 is a fabulously campy staple on the drag scene, and “the must-see act in Provincetown,” according to the NY Post.  She’s the spokesperson for, a national brand ambassador for the City of Palm Springs, and has made countless TV appearances.  I had often seen her glamorous visage, but had never seen her perform live until she brought her show, Born Again, to the Triad Theatre!  Not your typical cabaret show, it was more of a standup act with hilarious song parodies and videos.  Miss R. was literally born again at the top of the show, popping up between her mother’s legs in a diaper and bonnet, and she regaled us with songs like “Rockin’ Baby Jesus,” a tribute to the Virgin Birth, to the tune of “Proud Mary!”  We also got a brilliant video about the hypocritical things people do in the name of religion, which transformed Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” into “Don’t Make God a Liar.”  She wrapped up the show singing the classic “L-O-V-E,” spelling out the word with her body - a very funny, very silly touch, and most surprisingly, delivered a lovely “Rainbow Connection,” in which she played the singing saw!  Brilliant!  I got to meet Russ/Miss Richfield after the show, and she couldn’t have been sweeter.  Needless to say, I’m a new fan!

I caught the fabulous drag pop vocal trio, Stephanie’s Child in “Spring Fling,” their most recent outing at The Green Room 42.  Looking stunning in fierce latex couture - pink for Rosé, blue for Lagoona Bloo, and purple for Jan Sport, they once again slayed their audience with a collection of girl group and female empowerment songs!  They opened with “I’m So Excited,” in gorgeous harmony, and it only got better from there!  Songs like “Landslide,” the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” and “Bootylicious,” by Destiny’s Child were huge crowd pleasers, but for me, one of the real highlights was Lagoona’s solo turn, singing Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” as a ballad of hopeful longing.  They’ll be back at The Green Room 42 soon, so be sure to catch them!

May 4th marked the return of a drag icon to NYC - the one and only Varla Jean Merman brought her show Wonder Merman to The Green Room 42!  An evening of inspired lunacy, this show was about female empowerment and inspirational women. From her entrance as a young innocent tied to a huge section of train tracks, to her transformation into Wonder Merman, her message was always delivered with a huge dose of silliness - we got a tribute to Margot Kidder, just weeks before her death, ironically, with Varla singing “Can You Read My Mind?” as thought bubbles with messages like ‘My vagina itches!’ appeared on a screen beside her.  Her Josephine Baker tribute started out right enough, as Varla sang a bit of “La Vie En Rose,” but then dropped her ostrich plume fans and did an insane banana dance to Chic’s “Le Freak!”  She gave us a song about her slavish attraction to the Bear community, during which she coughed up an enormous hairball, she honored Effie White from Dreamgirls, but dressed in a hilarious cow costume, complete with a working udder, from which she squirted milk at the audience, and she paid homage to the Disney Princesses, stating that they no longer needed a Prince to make their lives worthwhile.  Toward the end of the evening, she did a tribute to her ultimate Southern heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, by performing all of Gone With the four and a half minutes!  Yes, just as she said she would, Varla gave us dose after dose after dose of Heroine, and we were all just helpless junkies!  Varla is hard at work on her 20th Anniversary show, so if you see her appearing near you, trust me...RUN to see her! 

I also caught a wonderful show at Don’t Tell Mama.  The enchanting Sally Darling presented her show Sally Darling Sings...Beatrice Lillie.  In it, we heard many songs and stories from the long and varied career of Miss Beatrice Lillie, a Canadian-born British stage and film actress, known for her work in the U.S. and the U.K.  Lillie, perhaps best known as Mrs. Meers in the film of Thoroughly Modern Millie, was a contemporary of Gertrude Lawrence, and performed in revues by André Charlot, often singing songs written for her by Noel Coward!  Darling proved herself a wonderful interpreter of song, with little known gems by Dietz and Schwartz, like “Nanette,” and “Paree,” in which she had a lot of fun with her faux French accent.  She also gave us comedic material, like Murray Grand’s “I Always Say Hello to a Flower,” and a few Noel Coward classics, like “World Weary,” “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” “I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party,” and “A Bar on the Piccola Marina.”  Darling’s interpretations never came across as an imitation of Lillie, but rather a gentle suggestion of the star.  I found the show to be a lovely way to spend an hour, so if you’d like to hear all about Beatrice Lillie and her eclectic life and career, Sally Darling Sings...Beatrice Lillie will be back at Don’t Tell Mama on June 25th.  

There were many more shows on which to report, so be sure to check out Cabaret Chronicles - Busy, Busy: Part 2, coming soon!

Michael Barbieri

Food & Entertainment Writer