cabaret

Comedy and Cabaret Cocktail

Audiences at the Broadway Comedy Club are in for some head-scratching and knee-slapping as the cast of On The Spot improvises and sings its way to creating a zany new musical performance every Monday night. The cast, made up of five singers, four improv actors and one pianist work together to create an entertaining, eclectic and somewhat perplexing hour and a half of comedy and cabaret.

The cabaret singers (Darby Puckett, Alyssa Beckman, Amanda Gallagher, Sydney Beck and Leigh Akin) all know the songs they’ll be performing before the start of the show. But the players (Patrick Reidy, Chris Catalano, Meg Reilly and Andrew Del Vecchio) have no clue what will come out of the singers’ mouths. Their job is to create a 10- 15-minute “scene” after each song, completely “on the spot.”

Songs during the July 27 performance ranged from Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me A River” to “Frank Mills” from the iconic 1960s musical Hair. Alyssa Beckman’s belting was impressive, while Sydney Beck brought a ton of personality to her performance of Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me.” Unfortunately, the resulting scenes were very hit-or-miss. Often, entire scenes passed without one reference to the song that had been sung and situations seemed to be disjointed and sloppy. 

As the night went on (each singer performed two songs) the skits began to refer back to situations, themes and jokes from previous scenes which helped to create more flow. Regrettably, to describe this as the creation of a “musical” throughout the course of the night seemed misleading. That’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty of laughter at the laid-back venue. A two-drink minimum kept people in good spirits while the acting and quick wit of Patrick Reidy (long-time New York City improv regular and On The Spot director) stood out among the cast of characters. Meg Reilly, though hilarious, seemed stuck in the same deadpan delivery of similar-sounding jokes throughout the night.  

Relaxed, relatable and sometimes raunchy, On The Spot appealed to audiences with one-liners about fingers covered in Dorito dust and Steve Harvey on Family Feud. Themes ranged from ants avoiding death-by-stomping, to children playing hockey with a baseball bat in the library, to a “secondhand poetry night.” A bright spot in the performance was pianist Andrew Whitback’s moment to shine—playing and singing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to the delight of the audience, who found themselves involved and clapping along.

The performance seems to regularly end with singers and players alike ad-libbing along to “Oh What A Night.” Though somewhat cheesy, it worked to wrap things up after an otherwise chaotic show. For a small-scale production with no bells and whistles in terms of costumes, lights or sets, On The Spot still succeeds in bringing laughter, charm and great vocal performances.

On The Spot currently runs every Monday at 8 p.m. at the Broadway Comedy Club (318 West 53rd Street) in Manhattan. For more information, call 212-757-2323 or visit onthespotnyc.com

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81 and Still a Bawdy Broad

As the lights illuminate the scant set design on stage—a keyboard, table, chair, a white and gold embellished frock on the wall and ukulele—a man appears and begins to play an overture of music on the keyboard while a petite, 81-year-old woman arrives in a gold sequined beret adorned with an Eiffel tower sewed on top. This cabaret duo of singer D’yan Forest and her longtime friend and pianist Richard Danley then begin the one-woman cabaret stand-up comedy show, A Broad Abroad!

Forest’s show is a compilation of her personal memoirs. She jokes that she tells her age at the beginning of the show “just in case I don’t make it to the end.” She is not the typical, cookie-baking, grandmother figure. Instead, she recounts her travel experiences across the globe and “studies in men, life and pantomime.” Forest tells you every dirty detail down to cunnilingus and warbling about dying her hair and her lady bush that reflects her “I ain’t 20 either and I don’t care neither. And I dye my hair not just here, but there," mentality. As for her thoughts on the horizontal mambo, she says, “Most of my friends have given up on sex. Not me, my rule is it ain’t over until the fat lady is dead.” 

The solo entertainer is energetic in her delivery on stage. She strums the ukulele quite impressively as she sings in French, German and Italian. She shows off her still nimble body when laying down on stage and getting up with ease while telling the story of her escapades in a Turkish bath. When she sings the song, "La Vie en Rose," her eyes twinkle with emotion and vigor.

Forest is a skilled artist who delightfully played musical renditions of nostalgic classics. However, some of the jokes that she and her co-writer, Eric Kornfeld, have written as transitions are predictable and stale. These include references to the old joke (“My parents went to China, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.") and the inevitable math problem that happens when an older person hooks up with a younger person (“One thing I know for sure 25 goes into 76 many more times than 76 goes into 25.”). 

The out-of-date script shows Forest's lack of a fresh perspective on the common-life experiences of women. Instead, she teaches you the age-old lesson, “Nobody told you life would be easy but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.” In topics of divorce and her perceived inability to make her mother happy, Forest appears heartfelt and authentic. Despite this, the audience's biggest takeaway is that she runs off and avoids the problems at hand. She would much rather be having sex and learning a new language than diving into life lessons.

Clearly, Forest doesn't seem to care whether or not the audience is laughing with her or at her. Her pure love of cabaret is illustrated in her command of the stage. Although she has lived her life with gusto, perhaps it’s time for some deep philosophical reflection?

A Broad Abroad! is running in the 10th annual FRIGID Festival at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th St. between 2nd Ave. and Bowery) in Manhattan. Remaining dates and times: Wednesday, March 2 at 5:30 p.m. and Friday, March 4 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, seniors and the military. Visit www.horsetrade.info to purchase tickets.

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