Review: Ana Gasteyer fills room with zany presence at Cabaret debut

Posted by admin on June 10, 2013

By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner

June  10, 2013

Three words describe Ana Gasteyer’s recent debut at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club: she killed it. Opening Thursday for the first of a two-night engagement, Gasteyer’s show, entitled “Ana Gasteyer: Elegant Songs From a Handsome Woman,” offered some of the most exuberant and rollicking entertainment ever presented at the Cabaret.

Gasteyer, who played noisy neighbor Sheila Shay on “Suburgatory” for two seasons, is best known for her “Saturday Night Live” characters, such as Margaret Jo McCullen, co-host of the NPR radio show “Delicious Dish”; Lilith Fair feminist singer Cinder Calhoun; and her impressions of Celine Dion, Martha Stewart and others.

Gasteyer is also a film and TV actress, with a recurring role as Judge Patrice Lessner in “The Good Wife.”

Gasteyer’s widest exposure yet, however, may come from her TV commercial for Weight Watchers, in which she vamps as their current spokesperson.

What many don’t realize is that comedienne Gasteyer has major chops as a singer and spent time on Broadway playing Elphaba in “Wicked” and appearing in “The Threepenny Opera” with Alan Cumming. Upon hearing her high-octane vocals, it’s no wonder she has esteemed credits such as these.

As original a performer as they come, Gasteyer kept the audience in constant laughter during her boisterous show which was as much standup comedy reflecting her wacky persona as it was a singing act.

She told unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness-like stories about her background, such as a riff on how it was that she arrived at “handsome woman” in her show’s title (it was a description placed on her by her mother).

Interspersed amongst musical theater songs and standards that showcased both her comic wit and her impressively large voice was comedy material that was sometimes profane but readily embraced by an obviously mature and receptive audience.

Gasteyer’s show, distinctive for its madcap quirkiness and variety, was directed by Julian Fleisher, who the LA Times called “A New York Night Club Supernova.”

Joining her was a top-notch, swinging ensemble that consisted of music director Jon Spurney on piano, Nick Tucker on bass, Mitch Shiner on drums and Michael Stricklin on woodwinds.

Opening Act 1 with an R&B-inspired version of “One Mint Julep,” made famous by Ray Charles, Gasteyer later sang a jazz arrangement of “Tit Willow,” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”; paid tribute to her husband Charlie in “Shopping Around”; and closed with her own unique arrangement of Cher’s “Dark Lady.”

Gasteyer began Act 2 by singing a mash up of “Before He Cheats” and “Fever.” Later, the nonstop bundle of energy displayed her talent for broad physical comedy as she moved about the stage in the manner of Lucille Ball and Martha Raye while singing “Shimmy Like My Sister Kate.” During that same number, Gasteyer demonstrated yet another aspect of her versatile talent when she played a violin during a duel with Michael Stricklin, who played the sax.

The Northwestern University graduate with a theater degree showed she also has the goods as an actress when she performed “Valley of the Dolls.” It was an unexpected turn from funny to serious, however, given that she introduced the song by dedicating it to her four gay boyfriends from her school days.

Gasteyer closed the show with “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” from “Guys & Dolls,” a song that effectively conveyed her infectious personality.

Leaving the stage to a standing ovation from the sold-out audience, she returned to sing two encore numbers. One was “Defying Gravity,” from “Wicked,” which seems to have become the anthem du jour for Cabaret acts these days, and the other was the Dixieland-flavored “Crazy People.”

For tickets and information about the remainder of the 2013 summer/fall season at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, call (317) 275-1169 or visit www.thecabaret.org.

Click here to read the full review.

 

"One of Indianapolis' most fashionable downtown nightspots..."

Tom Alvarez, Examiner.com

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