SAN FRANCISCO BAY TIMES
Young Frankenstein and Wicked Cast Perform for AIDS Fundraiser
|By Sister Dana Van Iquity
Published: July 15, 2010
|Donna Sachet, MC Bruce Vilanch and sparkling performer Sharon McNight. PHOTO BY PAT JOHNSON
The Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF) presented a very special â€œOne Night Only Cabaretâ€ with members from the touring casts and crews of currently running smash hits, Young Frankenstein and Wicked, with special guest emcee, Bruce Vilanch (of Broadwayâ€™s Hairspray) on July 12 at Club Fugazi (home of Beach Blanket Babylon). REAF producers and directors Joe Seiler and Ken Henderson gathered everyone to help raise funds for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. They delivered an evening of upbeat, high-energy music, dance, and comedy. REAF has worked with over 32 touring casts to date to produce â€œOne Night Only Cabaretâ€ events, benefiting important charity organizations and, over the years, distributing well over $2.5 million to AIDS service agencies.
The show began with Preston Truman Boyd (who plays The Monster in Young Frankenstein) singing a heartbreaking â€œNew Townâ€ about trying to get a break in â€œa new, blue town that wonâ€™t get me down.â€ Then out came Vilanch with his hysterical standup routine. His tee shirts always amuse, and this time it was a graphic of Chairman Mao in a rare smiling pose with the bold letters: â€œLMAOâ€ beneath. It took me a few moments to get the pun of Internet-speak = Laughing My Ass Off.â€ He said, â€œWelcome to Club Fucking Crazy,â€ which we have to guess was his translation of â€œClub Fugazi.â€
Vilanch had a whole set putting down BP and the oil spill. And his ongoing man-crush on Mayor Gavin Newsom. â€œIs he still married, or is he available?â€ he jokingly questioned. He then lovingly accused us of stalking chorus boys at these events.
He introduced Lawrence Alexander, a dancer in Young Frankenstein, who gave an erotic choreographic interpretation of â€œIâ€™m in Hereâ€ [â€œCan you hear my call?â€]. Jeff Knaggs, makeup artist for YF, sang a gorgeous baritone power ballad of â€œJoey Joey Joeyâ€ [â€œyouâ€™ve been too long in one place, and itâ€™s time to goâ€]. Libby Servais and Felicia Ricci are standbys in Wicked (playing Elphaba and Galinda, respectively) who sang a riveting duet of â€œI Will Never Leave Youâ€ [â€œI will never go away; I am here to stayâ€]. Trey Cox, musical director of the evening and pianist/ soloist sang a moving, screaming â€œKing of the Worldâ€ [â€œGet me out of here and set me free from this prison!â€]. It must be mentioned that adding to Cox as the show pianist was Daniel Fabricant on bass and Josh Riskin playing percussion.
Laura Dysarcyk, who brilliantly plays Wickedâ€™s Elphabaâ€™s sister Nessa Rose who is stuck in a wheelchair, took on a whole new persona this night, based on a real life bag lady at the BART station, in a number she entitled â€œTyrone,â€ who was her sort of pimp (if you could say she actually ever made any real money hooking) in a dramatic comedic interpretation: â€œYou donâ€™t give me no cash, but youâ€™re always asking for ass.â€ â€œI smell Gucci up in here,â€ she remarked at the relatively well-off audience. â€œIâ€™m gonna do a show tonight. Anyone have four dollars for four quarters?â€ and then she tried to steal the microphone and sell it. Hysterical!
Holly Hyman beautifully interpreted â€œFind Your Loveâ€ with a sensual modern dance, joined at the end by that crazy bag lady. Jennifer Smith (from YF) sang a seriously comedic operatic â€œPansy in My Garden,â€ which she could relate to as either an actual seasonal flower or perhaps an emblematic gay man she met in her brief stay in Gay Mecca, San Francisco. The first act closed with Boyd returning to join Stephen Carrasco (both men starring in YF) in a stunning high soprano falsetto duet of Andrew Lloyd-Webberâ€™s requiem of Pie Jesu, sung from the giant pockets of a pair of humongous Levis jeans. Whaaaat??! But brava to both of them! Superior soprano singing!
The second act began with a bizarre psychic reading by a broken Spanish/ English speaking fortune telling cosmetologist, Juanita Ramirez (which wasnâ€™t her real name, but apparently she was from In the Heights, Hairspray, and currently in YF as Frau Blucher, and a good friend of Vilanch). It was quite off-the-wall. Jeff Knaggs and Trey Cox returned to sing a simply sterling â€œSailing.â€ Carrasco returned to solo in â€œAt the Fountain,â€ referring to his striving to get a lucky break into show biz as did the legendary actress Lana Turner get discovered at a soda fountain. Zach Hensler (a dancer from Wicked) gave a mighty muscular dance performance to â€œGoodbyeâ€ and made us all say: Hello! to such a talented artiste. Sarah Pennebaker (school buddy of Hensler and fellow Wicked star) sang a bittersweet â€œSo Farâ€ about a first date that had no history â€œso far,â€ but was bound to build into something memorable, hopefully. Brad Oscar (a somewhat portly character actor gent from YF as a kooky Transylvanian, who has starred in The Producers, among other hits) belted out the classic â€œOld Devil Moonâ€ [â€œin your eyesâ€]. Libby Servais returned to solo this time in a number from a new musical, Catch Me If You Can, â€œFly Fly Awayâ€: â€œI wanna see him fly, fly; we didnâ€™t get to say goodbye, goodbye; maybe itâ€™s because youâ€™ll fly back home to me one day.â€
Sharon McNight, a generous, longtime performer for REAF and so many other countless benefits, took us back to the 1980s and club Fanniesâ€™ in the Castro to reprise her Carnegie Hall gem 15 years later, â€œWizard of Oz Medley,â€ in which she absolutely knocks herself out for about 20 minutes portraying ALL the characters from that classic movie â€“ including Dorothy of Kansas, her dog Toto, the tweeting birds, the tornado, Glinda the Good Witch, all the munchkins, the bad witch, and everyone â€œoff to see the Wizard.â€ Later when I asked her where she got her tireless energy, she joked, â€œDrugs!â€
The entire company took the stage to sing â€œChildren Will Listenâ€ from Into the Woods with lyrics that can be sadly applied to the AIDS epidemic: â€œHow do you say it will all be all right, when you know that it might not be true? What do you do?â€
Save the dates for two upcoming â€œOne Night Only Cabaretâ€ performances: Aug. 23 at Theatre 39 on Pier 39 with the cast of Beauty and the Beast, and Sept. 20 at Marines Memorial Theatre with the cast of Dreamgirls. For tix and info, check out helpisontheway.org or call (415) 273-1620.