We Got Bruce!

Review: Bruce Vilanch, Young Frankenstein and Wicked Cast Perform for AIDS Fundraiser

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 “One Night Only Cabaret” with members from the touring casts and crews of currently running smash hits, Young Frankenstein and Wicked, with special guest emcee, Bruce Vilanch (of Broadway’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 “One Night Only Cabaret” 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 “New Town” about trying to get a break in “a new, blue town that won’t get me down.” 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: “LMAO” beneath. It took me a few moments to get the pun of Internet-speak = Laughing My Ass Off.” He said, “Welcome to Club Fucking Crazy,” which we have to guess was his translation of “Club Fugazi.”

Vilanch had a whole set putting down BP and the oil spill. And his ongoing man-crush on Mayor Gavin Newsom. “Is he still married, or is he available?” 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 “I’m in Here” [“Can you hear my call?”]. Jeff Knaggs, makeup artist for YF, sang a gorgeous baritone power ballad of “Joey Joey Joey” [“you’ve been too long in one place, and it’s time to go”]. Libby Servais and Felicia Ricci are standbys in Wicked (playing Elphaba and Galinda, respectively) who sang a riveting duet of “I Will Never Leave You” [“I will never go away; I am here to stay”]. Trey Cox, musical director of the evening and pianist/ soloist sang a moving, screaming “King of the World” [“Get me out of here and set me free from this prison!”]. 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 Wicked’s Elphaba’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 “Tyrone,” who was her sort of pimp (if you could say she actually ever made any real money hooking) in a dramatic comedic interpretation: “You don’t give me no cash, but you’re always asking for ass.” “I smell Gucci up in here,” she remarked at the relatively well-off audience. “I’m gonna do a show tonight. Anyone have four dollars for four quarters?” and then she tried to steal the microphone and sell it. Hysterical!

Holly Hyman beautifully interpreted “Find Your Love” with a sensual modern dance, joined at the end by that crazy bag lady. Jennifer Smith (from YF) sang a seriously comedic operatic “Pansy in My Garden,” 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-Webber’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 wasn’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 “Sailing.” Carrasco returned to solo in “At the Fountain,” 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 “Goodbye” and made us all say: Hello! to such a talented artiste. Sarah Pennebaker (school buddy of Hensler and fellow Wicked star) sang a bittersweet “So Far” about a first date that had no history “so far,” 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 “Old Devil Moon” [“in your eyes”]. Libby Servais returned to solo this time in a number from a new musical, Catch Me If You Can, “Fly Fly Away”: “I wanna see him fly, fly; we didn’t get to say goodbye, goodbye; maybe it’s because you’ll fly back home to me one day.”

Sharon McNight, a generous, longtime performer for REAF and so many other countless benefits, took us back to the 1980s and club Fannies’ in the Castro to reprise her Carnegie Hall gem 15 years later, “Wizard of Oz Medley,” in which she absolutely knocks herself out for about 20 minutes portraying ALL the characters from that classic movie – including Dorothy of Kansas, her dog Toto, the tweeting birds, the tornado, Glinda the Good Witch, all the munchkins, the bad witch, and everyone “off to see the Wizard.” Later when I asked her where she got her tireless energy, she joked, “Drugs!”

The entire company took the stage to sing “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods with lyrics that can be sadly applied to the AIDS epidemic: “How do you say it will all be all right, when you know that it might not be true? What do you do?”

Save the dates for two upcoming “One Night Only Cabaret” 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.

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