Chico Cabaret has fun with classic nursery rhymes (and more) in sexy revue
Nursery rhymes begin to lose their innocent veneer the second every 6-year-old boy learns to rhyme things with “candlestick,” and fairy tales fare no better … you can’t throw a rock downtown on Halloween without hitting a sluttified Cinderella or Little Miss Muffet.
There are plenty of reasons why it’s so easy to sexualize these seemingly innocuous folk stories—ambiguity, universal appeal, and the simple fact that many, either metaphorically or quite literally, are rife with ribaldry, scandal and much darker themes. Yes indeed, philosophers and literati could spend years poring over centuries-old tomes hand-quilled in the original French and German and have days-long conversations in fluent Middle English about the true meaning of eating curds and whey, and crooked houses; and call the linguists in to examine different colloquial connotations of the words depending on which region of Austria Mother Goose migrated from each winter; and wonder what Freud would think about the preference of tuffets to picnic baskets as it pertains to the psycho-sexual development of middle children of …
Or, they could just head down to the Chico Cabaret and figure it all out in less than two hours, the length of The Little Bo Peep Show, “Broadway Burlesque-Style Comedy Revue.” In this two-act performance, the audience follows Miss Bo Peep on a seedy journey in which—we are reminded more than once—she loses “More than just sheep.”
Our wayward shepherdess’ tale is told through a hodge-podge collection of dirty rhymes, one-liners, song and/or dance routines, comedy sketches and—as the titillating title would indicate—some striptease. The narrative may be a bit meandering and I don’t think anyone’s really sure in the end what actually led to Bo’s new libertine lifestyle, but, hey, this isn’t Tennessee Williams.
Not that the script doesn’t have it’s finer moments, but most of the comedy stays staunchly below the brow-line, unsurprising for the subject matter—but let us not forget Shakespeare liked a good fanny joke here and there too. The remarkable thing is that the entire cast contributed and to some degree directed their own bits, with producer/ directors Phil and Sue Ruttenburg overseeing the larger work and Sam Ruttenburg overseeing the sketch writing.
The results are mixed—on one hand it’s an honorable and daring undertaking to give everyone equal voice. On the other, while a revue show isn’t supposed to make the most sense, the audience sometimes wonders what certain scenes have to do with anything. Also, writing by committee requires strong editing to blend as seamlessly as possible together. The difference in voice, style and quality of the individual acts is markedly disparate.
Likewise, while some acts shine, others leave audience members scratching their heads, not for a lack of skillful execution but for questionable inclusion. Bo Peep is at its best when the cast uses original music or song parodies to flesh out the individual characters and (sometimes) tie them into Peep’s personal history. But a few of the acts are straightforward karaoke productions, or straight-from-a-video pop-song dance routines. While this speaks well to the abilities of the singers and dancers, it also strangles the already thin storyline.
Kimberly Pothier shines as the title character and also handled choreography duties. All of the ladies are lovely, quite brave and deserving of adulation for carrying forth the age-old art of burlesque. April Standafer stands out as Little Red Riding Hood, as does Amy Brown in her turn as Madame Muffet. And surprisingly, for a show based on feminine allure, the cast’s male contingent makes a strong showing, most nailing multiple roles with relish and aplomb, hitting one-liners like veteran lounge lizards and even getting their groove on. Of particular note is John Duncan, who slays as the foul-mouthed, sheep-shagging hillbilly Old MacDonald and as dandy wool-junkie Ole King Cole.
The Little Bo Peep Show is a fun night out and for a good cause. There are far more stuffy ways to support local theater than a few deep chuckles over a cocktail while admiring the placement of a few pretty pasties.