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