Thai hot and sassy

Chico Cabaret’s Best of Chico Does Best of Broadway is fun and varied community theater at its best

A GIRL AND HER HORN <br>Allison Rich keeps things hot.

Allison Rich keeps things hot.

Photo By Tom Angel

Scribbled next to the words “Our Cast” is the comment, “can’t keep clothes on.” I must have made that note on the playbill during one of several particularly sassy numbers involving a lot of leg and a lot less clothing. But then, this is Chico Cabaret, old friend, and if you desire a night of quick-moving passionate numbers, what better than a revue titled Best of Chico Does Best of Broadway to turn the phrase “hot Chico night” into a good thing?

Cabaret‘s “Willkommen,” which is apparently German for “thank-God-I-invited-my-mother-and-not-my-father,” opens with a lot of leg (and very little red satin). This number achieves Thai hot status as special guest Tony Varicelli dons suspenders and sashays about the room dishing up very spicy commentary on each of the “girls.” Oh, and be warned—those of you sitting up front may have a close encounter of the cheekiest kind.

The Cabaret crew cools it down a bit for the next few numbers until we get to “Gotta Get a Gimmick” (Gypsy). Prepare to literally be “blown away” by the musical stylings of Allison Rich as the stripper Mazeppa who, and I quote, does it “with a horn.”

Strength is in numbers, as the overall performance hits a high note during selections such as this one that involve many voices and intricate interplay between performers. As most of the accompaniment is satisfied on piano by the talented Carol Lane, a chorus of voices becomes a powerful acoustic tool by contrast. Add a dash of clever choreography, as in “Six Months Out of Every Year” (Damn Yankee) and “What You Don’t Know About Women” (City of Angels), and, well, that’s entertainment.

The one number that outshines all others, however, is Chicago‘s “Cell Block Tango.” The singing, the movement, the rat-a-tat wordplay, all of it simultaneously hits you with shock and humor. Director Nan Willis pulls a powerful performance out of pop, squish and the rest of the bunch, including some pretty impressive dance moves. Come for the variety, but stay for lucky musical number 13.

Before the show officially began, my mom and I took our seats in the third of four rows, along a long Formica counter resembling granite. I scanned the room as my mom whispered observations she felt necessary to include in my review.

“Look. There are all types of people here. Young. Old. Teens. You can write that it’s all ages.”

“Look. That curtain. So red. So bright. The curtain is so important in a theater. You have to mention the curtain.”

“You have to write in there that you can get all sorts of things here, like soda, or beer. Or cake and ice cream.”

She sounded like someone who had a stake in the outcome of the performance, although neither of us had been here before tonight. But I felt the same way, strangely—there is something about community theater that makes you want to root for it. Support it. Herald its passion. And be really glad that it’s so darn good.