Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler gets “exposed” to one of New York’s hottest cabaret performers, Bridget Everett. This article contains adult themes and language.
I was first exposed (quite literally, in fact) to Bridget Everett at a benefit cabaret performance about a decade ago. She had been added to the roster by one of the event chairs who had a penchant for downtown performers. Even at that time, Everett’s alter ego stage persona was swilling chardonnay and waxing poetic about her white trash upbringing in Manhattan, Kansas, and her affection for black dick. Oh, how things change yet stay the same. At the end of the performance, one of the board members scrambled backstage to see if Everett was available for an encore—to the tune of a $10,000 donation to the charity beneficiary. If memory serves me, I believe the response was a resounding, “Fuck, yeah” and a star—at least in my eyes—was born.
Cut to Everett’s latest incarnation, Rock Bottom, which opened last night at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Developed from New York Voices, an artist-commissioning program that matches master artists with developing talent, Everett has taken her bawdy, shock-value act to stratospheric levels with the mentorship of co-creators Marc Shaiman (Hairspray, NBC’s Smash), Scott Wittman (Catch Me If You Can), Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (original member of the Beastie Boys) and pianist songwriter Matt Ray. Cumulatively, the team’s musical compositions are framed by a shock value premise that leaves nary a rock unturned. She goes for the jugular with sex toys, a can of whipped cream and several revealing onstage costume changes (designed by Larry Krone for House of Larreón).
Everett’s Rock Bottom rants don’t necessarily follow a linear plot, but her recurring themes of body empowerment, the class system (she mentions her “slave job” several times throughout the evening) and dysfunctional relationships simmer like a batch of crystal meth in a trailer park kitchen. “Bridget’s ferocious femininity and unapologetic embrace of her sexuality are at the forefront of her work,” says Joe’s Pub director Shanta Thake in the program notes. “The feeling of female empowerment is palpable in the room every time she takes the stage.”
In order to hit those marks, Everett is well equipped with a brand new songbook that showcases her smoky alto range. Shaiman and Wittman are masters of the hook and don’t disappoint with arrangements that draw from Motown, R&B, gospel and beyond. On a rare occasion, the hooks venture into hokey, but for the most part Everett benefits greatly from the more sophisticated musicality than her previous shows, including a number of well-placed key changes that allow the performer to soar into her higher register—proving that there’s more to Bridget Everett than “them low rider titties.”
One of the greatest testaments to Bridget Everett’s endurance and endearment is her dedicated audience, who return time and again to see what she may pull out of an orifice next. They come from all walks of life (Patti LuPone is a notable fan—so much so that the Tony Award winner asked her to perform a number at her recent Carnegie Hall concert). They come to laugh and surprisingly, sometimes cry. Most have them have probably hit rock bottom at some point or another. And rising like a phoenix, Bridget Everett is there for them—inevitably with a glass of chardonnay.
Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Through October 11
Every third Wednesday of the month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out contributor Tom Mizer’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. For September, we’ve got a guy who is truly fabulous…
Name: Adam Kemmerer
Hometown: Catasauqua, Pennsylvania
Current Show/Role: Rock Henderson in Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies
The best part of the show I’m working on now is: Listening to the waves of laughter my castmates get every night.
The most challenging job in show business I ever had was: I was in a production of Forever Plaid in New Hampshire. I think we had to learn the music and choreography in 3 days. I remember a lot of cursing and gentle sobbing. But it turned out to be one of my favorite productions of all time.
If I wasn’t a performer, I would be: I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. Someone that can help his community. So I think a NYPD detective would have been fun. I’d settle for playing one on TV though.
Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? I like intermission best. You get to take stock of how your show is going and make adjustments for the audience you have that day and you also have one more act to get it right! Read more…
Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler sets sail with the new madcap musical, Fabulous!
A new musical set sail last week at the Times Square Arts Center, and while Fabulous! may not be breaking ground in the genre, it is most certainly a guilty pleasure worth seeing. Inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, Dan Derby (book and lyrics) and Michael Rheault (music) have crafted a whimsical romp that draws plot lines and musical riffs from familiar titles such as Some Like It Hot, Anything Goes, and Dames at Sea.
The madcap plot follows Jane Mann (Josh Kenney) and Laura Lee Handle (Nick Morrett), two down-on-their luck female impersonators who bail on a disastrous Paris nightclub gig to headline on the luxurious (in a Love Boat kind of way) cruise ship The Queen Ethel May. Throw in a brother/sister gangster duo (Bryan Seastrom and Natalie DePuy), heartthrob Rock Henderson (Adam Kemmerer) and requisite lesbian cruise director Sylvia Smothers (Jane Aquilina) and you’ve got the recipe for a tried and true upside down cake. But a ship can’t sail without a crew… enter the nameless crew of four boys, who strut, bevel and tap their way across the ocean blue.
Fabulous! benefits from musical nods and story twists that have appeared in countless stage productions and films, so this transatlantic journey isn’t as much about keeping track of the plot as it is enjoying the ebullient performances from the leading players. As Jane Mann, Josh Kenney carries the gravitas and mostly plays the not-so-straight-man to the antics of his partner. It is a sharp, witty and vulnerable performance, culminating in “Just Me,” an 11 o’clock number that oddly appears at about 8:45. He’s the perfect balance to Nick Morrett’s Laura Lee, a big southern broad who likes things that glitter and dangerous men. The two are bosom buddies through thick and thin and manage to traverse high-octane slapstick in heels.
Less successful are the supporting characters, whose one-note performances can’t match the nuance and humor of the show’s two leading man-ladies. As the uptight cruise director, Jane Aquilina spends most of the show fiercely staring past the fourth wall into the abyss of who knows what. But when she opens her mouth to sing her Act II number, “I Feel Romantic,” in a smoky, full-out alto belt, you wish she’d abandon ship and start her own nightclub act.
“The boys,” purposefully cast as wistful, effeminate tinker tots, go through the ranks as back-up singer/dancers and manage to hit their marks throughout, but it’s PJ Palmer (Boy 3) who resists mugging and overzealous gesticulations to stay within the world of this madcap production.
Fabulous! benefits greatly from its director and choreographer. Rick Hamilton, who is also a performer, keeps the production moving at a brisk pace and navigates the theater’s wide stage with ease. Choreographer Mary Lauren brings an exuberant charm to the production, offering a vocabulary of movement that far exceeds what is typically seen Off Off Broadway, though I’m sure she wishes she had another 10 feet of stage depth.
For a fun homage to the old days of musical comedy, Fabulous! offers a refreshing evening of light-hearted fun, plenty of laughs and more sequins than a Cher concert.
Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies
Times Square Arts Center
300 West 43rd Street
Fall is officially here, and so is the launch of another Broadway season. To celebrate, Passport Magazine commissioned photographer Ezequiel De La Rosa to capture some of the hottest men on the Great White Way. While they’d look good wearing nothing at all, we wanted to leave something to your imagination.
Get up close and personal with (among others) Alan Cumming, Kyle Dean Massey, Christopher Sieber and Josh Tower. They look terrific in the latest fall fashions and you can discover what they like to do (and wear) to the theater and for a night on the town.
You can also get to know Tony Award-winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots) in our VIP Lounge, where he talks about high heels, travel and a whole lot more.
These stories and more are available online now.
Take the jump for some video clips of our favorite stars in action…
Contributor Jim Gladstone chats with the gender bending theatrical force, Charles Busch.
“I alternately feel like Marlene Dietrich at the end of her career and an old animal act,” quips actor and playwright Charles Busch about the nightclub tour—his first in several years—that brings him to Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco on September 25 and 26.
“I don’t like being a downer, but I’m not sure if the majority of young gay people are interested in old Hollywood history or cabaret. That’s not really a new thing though,” says Bush, who turned 60 last month. “In the ‘70s, when I was in my 20s and fascinated with old studio system movies, most of my friends were caught up in disco, more into Donna Summer than Bette Davis. But I’ve always sort of modeled my career on the old female movie stars—I think I’ve cultivated a sense of mystique and emotional remove.”
Busch will discuss that career—which runs the gamut from being nominated for a Tony Award for penning The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, playing a convict in the television prison drama Oz, and creating and starring in the cult off-Broadway hit “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”—two nights before his Feinstein’s run in a live interview at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, where his camp-tastic play Die, Mommie, Die! will have its Bay Area premiere the following week.
Busch says he’s looking forward to meeting San Francisco-based actor J. Conrad Frank—best-known as drag character, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy—who will be playing murderous washed-up pop singer Angela Arden in the NCT production. It’s a role Busch originally wrote for himself.
“A lot of times when my plays are done around the country,” Busch says, “I get pictures, and the leads are like Ernest Borgnine in a dress. Conrad looks like he will be rather glamorous.”
Busch himself will be in full glam at Feinstein’s. “It’s kind of an odd act,” he says, “They introduce me as Charles Busch, and I come out looking like Arlene Dahl. I sing songs by Harold Arlen and Kurt Weill, and I tell anecdotes from my life and my experiences. I could do the job out of drag, but it seems better when I’m in drag. I’m looser and more uninhibited.” While drawing on his own memories, Busch says he uses his life as a source of “fun anecdotes” rather than the self-pitying and self-aggrandizing confessional material that seems to be in vogue among gay cabaret artists these days.
“Elaine Stritch’s act was phenomenal. But she was one-of-a-kind,” he notes, “After that, you started to see a lot of jacking off on stage.
Among the highlights of Busch’s past cabaret performances being reprised on his current tour, are his monologues as showbiz-obsessed suburban matron Miriam Passman. The Passman character was the basis for Marjorie Traub, the lead role in Allergist’s Wife, played on Broadway by Linda Lavin—Tony-nominated for the part—and Rhea Perlman.
While the drag-free Allergist has been Busch’s biggest mainstream success and led to several lucrative writing gigs, he says “I really think my work is the most interesting when I perform my own writing.”
In addition to writing and acting, Busch has recently delved back into his first artistic pursuit. “Film and theater is all collaboration, but there’s something marvelous about making art all by yourself. I started out as a painter. I was an art major at the High School of Music and Art, and for a long time—until I was 30—I couldn’t earn a living in theater. Instead of being a waiter, I worked as a quick sketch portrait artist, working at Renaissance fairs and on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey.”
“I think that for a long time after I made some money, I subconsciously associated drawing and painting with bad times in my past, when I had to do this very commercial, sensibility-coarsening version of visual art to get by. But about three years ago, I said to myself, I’ve got this gift, and I should tinker around with it a little more.”
Busch was one of twenty performers commissioned by Turner Classic Movies to create works of art inspired by classic films. Through that project, he met a longtime idol, fellow thespian-painter Kim Novak.
“We started emailing back and forth about our art work, and I realized she probably didn’t know who I was. To her, I was a nice gay boy who worked in pastels. I have very high standards and I’m not quite meeting them in painting yet, so I wrote to tell her about my career as a performer. I mean, I knew she liked me, but I wanted her to know that I was really talented.”
A Conversation with Charles Busch
September 23, 7 p.m.
Charles Busch at Feinstein’s at the Nikko
September 26, 8 p.m.
Die, Mommie, Die!
October 3 – November 2
Take a peek of Charles Busch as his alter ego, Miriam Passman:
Jim Gladstone is a San Francisco-based creative consultant and writer. A book columnist and Contributing Editor at PASSPORT, he is the author of an award-winning novel, The Big Book of Misunderstanding.
Ben Rimalower’s addiction to spending beyond his means has driven him to extreme lengths all his life. In Bad With Money he charts his sometimes hilarious, sometimes harrowing struggle to overcome his problem—or get rich trying. Written and performed by Ben Rimalower and directed by Aaron Mark, Bad With Money runs at The Duplex on Thursday evenings through November 6.
Rimalower’s first solo show, the long-running hit Patti Issues, explored his obsession with Broadway diva Patti LuPone and his relationship with his troubled gay father. Bad with Money delves into even deeper personal territory with the story of his struggle with debt—a journey that takes him through drug addiction, prostitution, fraud and multiple betrayals.
In this gripping play-by-play of some his biggest mistakes and their consequences, Rimalower offers a no-holds-barred self-portrait of an addict, and casts light on one of the last societal taboos. “People tend to be familiar now with alcohol and drug addiction—and I’ve got those too,” the writer-performer says. “But spending money I don’t have is really my drug of choice. And considering how many people suffer from the same problem, it’s staggering how seldom it’s discussed.”
Bad With Money
61 Christopher Street, New York City
Thursday evenings, 9:30 p.m.
Through November 6
The entertainment world continues to mourn the loss of Joan Rivers. A social media blast descended upon The Broadway League to dim its lights for the foul-mouthed comedian who paved the way for today’s female entertainers.
“Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her. Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in her memory tonight, at exactly 6:45pm for one minute,” said the League’s Executive Director Charlotte St. Martin.
While Martin acknowledged Rivers’ love of Broadway, she didn’t mention that the star appeared on the Great White Way three times. Fun City, a play she co-wrote with Lester Colodny and Edgar Rosenberg, lasted merely a week. It would be nearly 15 years later before she returned to the stage as a replacement in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound. Her final appearance on Broadway was 20 years ago in another self-penned title, Sally Marr… and her escorts.
Here are some of our favorite Joan Rivers moments:
What are Sting and Patti LuPone doing on the same stage? The unconventional dynamic duo, along with host Jane Lynch, Tony Award winner Billy Porter and a gaggle of Broadway stars are coming together for Uprising of Love: A Benefit Concert for Global Equality. The evening also features country-music star Chely Wright, Bollywood star Celina Jaitly, the casts of hit Broadway shows Once and Wicked, the casts of Witness, Uganda and I Am Harvey Milk, a Grammy Award winning surprise musical guest, and more.
Written by Academy Award-winning Dustin Lance Black, executive producers Stephen Schwartz and Bruce Cohen have brought together this all-star cast for a one-night-only show that will weave together stories and performances from activists and musical artists from around the world.
The net proceeds raised from the show will go to Fueling the Frontlines, a campaign by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the only philanthropic organization in the United States solely dedicated to globally advancing LGBTI rights.
Uprising of Love: A Benefit Concert for Global Equality
222 West 51st Street
The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler rounds up our top three picks of the month.
After a quiet summer and theater vacancies (so long, ROCKY, Bullets Over Broadway and Holler If Ya Hear Me), new productions are slowly rumbling onto the stage. It’s proving to be an eclectic season. Which shows will win the hearts of critics and audiences? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, we’ve got our eyes on three openings this month worth a second glance:
Downtown’s bawdry broad Bridget Everett returns to the Public Theatre with the premiere of Rock Bottom. Conceived with the help of heavy hitters Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Matt Ray, Everett tells the story of what happens when you’re too passionate to give up, and too big to fail. In it, she barrels through life tiptoeing toward disaster, wine bottle by wine bottle and man by man. However, instead of succumbing to a chardonnay-induced stupor, Everett embraces a series of revelations that lead her and her voice of an angel to redemption. Originally commissioned as part of Joe’s Pub 2013 New Voices series, Everett and her entourage have moved beyond cult status into the “see and be seen” of New York’s theater world.
Joe’s Pub at The Public
425 Lafayette Street
Opening night, September 17
Through October 11
Take a peek at Patti LuPone crashing one of Bridget’s performances at Joe’s Pub last year.
THIS IS OUR YOUTH
Hollywood stars come out to play in the revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, directed by Anna D. Shapiro. The play follows three wayward youth, played by Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, as they stumble their way through life and love via 1982 New York City. The New Group originally produced the play Off Broadway back in 1996. This revival got its footing at Steppenwolf in Chicago earlier this summer in their intimate Upstairs Theatre. Hopefully those performances will translate to the 1,082-seat Cort Theatre.
This Is Our Youth
138 West 48th Street
Opening night, September 11
Through January 4, 2015
With too many Off Broadway shows to pick from this fall, we couldn’t limit ourselves and why should you? The Off Broadway Alliance’s bi-annual promotion enables audience members to snag $20 tickets at 20 minutes prior to curtain for dozens of shows. Revisit old favorites like Avenue Q and Naked Boys Singing, or check out a new production such as Port Authority or Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story (closing September 14).
For a full listing, visit, 20at20.com.
When it came to the question of how to utilize her life, Esmeralda Simmons had little trouble deciding exactly what to do.
“I cut my teeth as an activist in the student protest movement. So I have been active since then. This is my calling,” said Simmons about her days as a student at Hunter College and the political climate during the late 1960s and early 1970s, which sparked her career choice.
As founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College (CUNY), Simmons has been an advocate for the disenfranchised in the African American community for the past 28 years. During that time, she’s seen the need for the center’s services intensify.
“I wish I could say we didn’t need to do this work. But there’s so much of it, we can’t handle it all,” she said.
To help Simmons and CLSJ help the often underserved and underrepresented members of its Brooklyn community and beyond, a special production of “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou” will take place at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 9. Part of the proceeds from the event will benefit the center; a portion of all parterre-level tickets sold will be donated to CLSJ.
CLSJ is a nonprofit, community-based service organization that provides advocacy, research, training and legal services in a number of areas. Those areas include education, immigration, misuse of police authority and voting rights.
Fannie Lou is a new, original musical inspired by the life of grassroots voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The work, written by playwright/composer Felicia Hunter, had its world premiere in New York City in 2012. “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou: At Carnegie Hall” is a sumptuous evening of selected music and dialogue from the musical, presented in concert format. More than a dozen singer-actors, accompanied by a six-piece instrumental ensemble, will bring Fannie Lou Hamer’s struggle for voting rights to the world-renowned Carnegie Hall.