Chief Ike’s Mambo Room has the air of a place where class goes to die, owing to the garrish paint and sinister murals. Right now, it provides the backdrop for Psycho Cabaret, and referring to it as an apt setting becomes somehow more than an understatement. During the performance the eyes of Eisenhower garbed in military uniform, Native American headdress and Mickey Mouse hands smirked above me, as the accomplished singers spewed songs of delightful and disheartening disorder. The effect being properly creepy, but with enough kitsch to keep the evening bouncing along.
Each perfomer in the ensemble of 7 has their turn in the spotlight, dressed simply enough in all black with just a touch of red, blood red, as they croon out their tales of lunacy, backed up on keyboard by Musical Director George Fulginiti-Shakar, who takes center stage late in the show with his own plaintive rendition of “Sweet Dreams”. It’s the stuff heartbreak is made of.
Other highlights are spearheaded by the take down the house performance of Michael Vitaly Sazonov, who honestly doesn’t need a mic, as he seductively turns between the tempted and temptor in his songs “What is it About Her?” and “Lies of Handsome Men.” The show’s director Judy Simmons hoarsely whispers an accutely sanguine “Another Winter in a Summer Town” with a hint of just enough crazy in her eye to make the song soar. The deadpan face and perfect pitch of Emily Leatha Everson aids the evening’s comedy, punctuated by the power ballads of Lonny Smith, the journeying cowboy in this band of out-of-their mind outlaws.
The remainder of the ensemble proves itself to be equally fit for the singing of crazy, although the subtle choices of perenially single Arlene Hill, straight laced Chris Cochran and the yearning Terri Allen, while incredibly natural in their sorrow (especially Allen’s turn in “Saturday Night”), did little to fit into the extreme theme.
To that extent, there was no combined wallop of emotional impact as this deranged offering of nuttiness never seems to coalesce, and I left unsure of what the cabaret was supposed to add up to or alternately where the nucleus of the story lies. The trajectory of the songs remained both tenuous and fuzzy, the disparate strands of the evening becoming a survey of what sounds like crazy on an ordinary day.
That being said, this DC Cabaret Network showing delightfully sounds on with individual performances that should be caught before they slip away into the madness of the walls in the Mambo Room.
- Running Time: 70 minutes
- Tickets: Psycho Cabaret’s final performance Fri, July 25th at 5:30 has sold out.
- Michael Sazanov shares the spotlight with Natascia Diaz July 30th and performs his full-length cabaret show My Well Schooled Heart on July 31st. All part of Signature Theatre’s cabaret season.
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