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Character in Cabaret

Courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts

I invited a friend of mine to accompany me to the OC premiere of Andrea Martin: Finals Days! Everything Must Go! My companion needed a reminder of who this funny lady was, and I assured him that he would know her when he saw her. Once I began naming off some of her characters, he grinned and nodded in recognition. A great compliment to a character actress is the impression her alternate personas leave on an audience, and this was the theme of Martin’s show, a retrospective of her life up until now, with an ultimate goal to entertain and make you chuckle.

The 90-minute gig, set in my favorite cabaret configuration at Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, took us through Martin’s career, with a little song, a little dance, some old video clips, and some heartfelt dialog. Her musical sidekick for the evening was the fabulous Seth Rudetsky, who accompanied Martin and provided brilliant background music during the set. We are taken chronologically through her life and good times, from Portland, Maine, to her exodus to Canada, to her breaking part in Godspell, the cast which included John Candy, Gilda Radner, Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, and Martin Short. She recounted her experiences on Broadway, showed a clip of her fatefully shortened acceptance speech for her Tony Award and charmed us with duets with Rudetsky.

Favorites included her reminiscences while working with Mel Brooks on Young Frankenstein and the accompanying song “He Vas My Boyfriend” and the old video clips from her visit with Johnny Carson. She is endearing with a dash of raunchy, celebrating a few of her memorable characters in vignette – English as a second language student, Ms. Pirini, sex therapist Cheryl Kinsey, My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s Aunt Voula, and the SCTV standout persona, Edith Prickley.

Her most treasured role, and one I can relate to, is her role as mother to her two, now grown sons, and her recollections of her participation in their lives and parts she passed up to be there for them truly humanized this funny lady, her stories reminding me a bit of humorist and meddling mother, Erma Bombeck.
Rudetsky was a great McMahon to her Carson, trying to get the audience to participate, and there were flashes of his signature snarkiness. I would have preferred more of him, but there was over 40 years of recollections to fit in this brief and scripted 90-minute show, and his role was to provide the soundtrack.  

Again, SCFTA was successful in bringing some freshness and variety to their intimate, nicely lit little theater space, a great way to spend a Thursday night.

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