BWW Review: 2016 Bistro Award Winner Sharon McNight Sets Out to
Offend Almost Everyone and Mostly Succeeds at The Duplex
March 22, 2016
Having recently added a 2016 Bistro Award for "Commanding Cabaret
Artistry" to her list of accolades (including a Tony nomination and
Theater World Award for her 1989 Broadway debut in Starmites), Sharon
and growled her way through Songs
to Offend Almost Everyone at
the second of her two shows at the Duplex (March 10). If Mae West
and George Carlin had by some miracle produced a daughter and Elaine
Stritch was the child's nanny, she would have grown up to sound like
A performer since "19-[mumble-mumble-mumble]," the cabaret veteran
is indeed commanding. Her clear, powerful voice fills even a large
space like Gotham Comedy Club, where she belted at the Bistro Awards
a couple of nights before. In a very small venue like the Duplex,
however, one wishes that she modulated the act somewhat. After a
predictable catalogue of racial and ethnic slurs to warn the
audience that this was not a show for the faint of heart, McNight
opened well with a trio of comedic numbers, including two terrific
Tom Lehrer songs: "Old Dope Peddler" and "Poisoning Pigeons," which
(like all the songs in the set) were expertly played by the terrific Ian
Herman on piano.
No show aiming to offend would be complete without a jab or two at
religion, and McNight does not disappoint. "Would God Wear a Rolex?"
(Chet Atkins/Margaret Archer) was hilarious and surely one of the
evening's highlights. Randy Newman's "God's Song (That's Why I Love
Mankind)" also worked well, expressing much the same view in starker
terms than the Atkins/Archer tune.
"Your Son Isn't Going Through A Stage," Rick Crom's parody of the
Noel Coward song pitched to the mother of a gay son still in denial
of her son's sexuality, was equally poignant and funny.
Less compelling (even to a critic, like me, whose liberal politics
mostly mirror McNight's) was Newman's satirical "Political Science."
Using the 1972 song as a commentary on the George W. Bush presidency
and the wars post-9/11, the song seemed somewhat out of place. The
lyrical sophistication of "You Can't Eat Dog in Taiwan" (D.
Buskin/R. Carlson/G. Wurzbach a.k.a. Modern Man) reminds one of a
Gilbert and Sullivan song gone wrong, and McKnight's phrasing and
enunciation was masterful. The sexually graphic "Merrilou" (Durwood
Douche) was well received but beyond raunchy. A moving and original
rendition of "I Never Do Anything Twice" (Stephen Sondheim) felt
downright cleansing after the vaguely pornographic song that
McNight has a strong, salty onstage presence, and she's a great
raconteur. The material in this show would not resonate with
everyone (not even fans of aggressive, in-your-face standup comedy),
to Offend Almost Anyone reveals
why the performer has enjoyed the success she has over so many
Songs to Offend Almost Everyone
The Duplex, NYC, March 6, 2016
Reviewed by Joel Benjamin for Cabaret Scenes
There’s something kittenish about
Sharon McNight, with her sweet voice. But, this is a kitten that
shows her claws with gleeful abandon in Songs
to Offend Almost Everyone at
The Duplex in Greenwich Village.
She touched on religion (Margaret
Archer/Chet Atkins’ acidic “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex” and Randy
Newman’s sardonic “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)”, passing
gas (“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Larry
Henley & Jeff Alan Silbar, additional lyrics by Michael Greer & Sharon
McNight), eating dogs (“You Can’t Eat Dog in Taiwan” by
David Buskin, Rob Carlson & George Wurzback, aka Modern Man),
accepting the gayness of a child (“Your Son Isn’t Going Through a
Stage” by Rick Crom) and taking on one of NYC’s biggest pains in the
butt, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” (Tom Lehrer).
As good as she was in comic
songs, she really shone in the outright sexy and/or touching ones,
such as “Everybody’s Girl” (Kander & Ebb) about a woman fooling
herself about fooling around. McNight’s “I Never Do Anything Twice”
(Sondheim) was given probably the juiciest interpretation it’s ever
It was fun watching this cabaret
artist shift from red hot mama to Mae West to tough, yet fragile
broad. She knows how to shape her show and keep it real as she
communicated intimately with the crowd at the legendary Duplex.
Her final song was the “good
riddance” number we all at one time or other want to sing: “Goodbye
and Good Luck” (Ronald White, recorded by Mary Wells). Needless to
say, Sharon McNight knew how to sing this one from her gut.
Ian Herman was more than
McNight’s incredible musical director/accompanist; he was also a
good buddy, therapist and occasional backup singer
Sharon McNight – From
Moose Hall to Carnegie Hall
Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko
June 6, 2011
Sharon McNight cut her
cabaret teeth in the noisy, spirited San Francisco saloons of the
early 80’s developing a large, supportive gay following that she
pays homage to in brassy entertaining style.
McNight has been around and around the
block, with a career paralleling and intertwining deep within the
AIDS pandemic and its made her tough, deeply emotional with the
joy of a survivor. Her banter is frank,
off-color and very, very funny. Her stories, moving.
With her rubber-faced
mugging, she’s like Betty Boop on steroids. Reminiscent of comic
legends like Martha Raye, McNight mines gold with Mary Liz
McNamara’s 2004 MAC Award winning song ‘Bacon”, a ode to
vegetarianism that takes a 180 degree
to extolling the virtues of sizzling bacon.
Her re-working of the schmaltzy “Wind
Beneath My Wings” becomes “Contempt Beneath My Feet” dedicated to
the couples in the audience.
signature 5-minute Wizard of
Oz tribute knocks ‘em dead.
McNight, no stranger to a
great country/western tune easily delivers on Henley/Frey’s
and the cute “Your Sweet And Shiny Eyes”
which evolves into a hula-laced sing-a-long. Randy Newman’s “Guilty”
is transformed into a torch song sung with such conviction that it
becomes a haunting self-revelation. If she’s acting, give her an
The show’s highlight for me were two
Craig Carnelia numbers written, ‘The Kid Inside” written for the
musical Is There Life After
“Just A Housewife” from Stud’s Terkel’s
Working. Here Sharon
shows the vulnerable woman behind the larger than life façade. Kid
Inside is warmly nostalgic while Housewife is bittersweet
self examination at its finest. McNight
sparkles in these quiet introspective moments that draw us in with
their universal appeal.
TALKIN BROADWAY SOUND ADVICE: TOP
TEN CAST ALBUMS of 2008 1-14-09
After ringing in a new year, what cast albums released during the
previous year are still ringing in our ears? Some are disappointments,
mere curiosities, or items diverting enough for a "glad I heard it"
reaction, but not something we pull off a shelf or play list more than
once in a blue moon. Others are the "keepers"—the ones that continue
to stand out from the pack and pack a theatrical punch that doesn't
lose too much of its impact on repeated listenings. Here are those top
ten cast albums released for the first time in the calendar year of
STUDIO CAST (GUIDE VOCALS) AND KARAOKE TRACKS
Much as I've admired the albums of musical theatre scores put out by
Stage-Stars Records, I never really thought I'd have them on a Top Ten
list besting out original scores performed by more experienced
performers and full orchestras. But bear with me. Though the stated
purpose and marketing intention of this company is to present karaoke
instrumental tracks and what's called "guide vocals" for the learning
of songs and accompaniment for little productions and rehearsals, the
singers they hire are often excellent. Whereas some of their albums
are unevenly cast, this one is tops all around. They've outdone
themselves and the youthfulness and enthusiasm of much of the cast
works in favor of the youth appeal of the material.
Musical director Jason Wynn (who also neatly
takes on the role of Flotsam) has managed to take the sparkly and
varied score about sea creature comforts and "scale" it down for the
learning-friendly clear accompaniment tracks and still retain the
heart and joy and dynamism. Christina Bianco in the title role is
appealingly girlish and full of wonder—just spot on. Like several
others on the album, she's someone whose work I've admired in New York
City cabaret shows over the last year or two.
The coup of the casting is the
company having enticed the bundle of caustic, sarcastic dynamite,
Sharon McNight, cabaret award-winning performer and Tony
nominee/Theatre World Award winner (for Starmites). The sassy
and outrageous strutting performer is ideal for the showy role of the
evil-but-hilarious Ursula, all cackling laugh and crackling energy.
She bites into it like the juicy plum role it is and scores a major
home run, making me laugh out loud at lines I know by heart as if they
were freshly ad-libbed asides. Billy Ernst makes an endearing
prince, and cabaret singing comedian Booth Daniels (of the team Booth
and Pat) shows his vocals and theatrical chops as he chops up the
seafood blithely and slightly sadistically as the chef in "Les
Poissons." Stage Stars regular Kristopher Monroe is at his musical
comedy best, turning in an especially fully realized and bubbly
fun-filled, pun-filled numbers ("Positoovity" and "Human Stuff," a
couple of the terrific new songs written for the stage version).
Like other shows in their growing library, the
package contains a disc of the vocals (with personality-plus
renditions that still keep one "on track" by attending to musical
values and tempi) in addition to a second disc with just the
instrumental accompaniments. In singer-friendly keys, the guides are
generally clear and should suit the many wannabe little mermaids in
school, community theatre and backyard and basement productions. A
surprising choice, admittedly, I enjoy this rendition for its
freshness and spunk and professionalism as much as I do the grand and
glorious Broadway or movie versions.
Sharon McNight at the Metropolitan Room
McNight may well be the funniest woman in the world! Judging from the
gales of laughter emanating from the Metropolitan Room last night, I think
that’s a safe
to make. In a delirious hour and forty minute show, she generates a
cacophony of chuckles, giggles, guffaws, whoops and downright belly
laughs. And that’s not all, folks!
Not Forgotten” is
Sharon’s madcap tribute to the
songstress/comediennes who are not longer with us but whose fame lives on
and on. Remember Judy Canova, the Ozark Nightingale? Well, Sharon
McNight summons her up singing “The Wabash Blues,” complete with yodels.
She begins with “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” an apt theme
for the evening, and a tribute to the late great Ethel Waters.
way, she manages to channel Madelaine Kahn channeling Dietrich singing Mel
Brooks’ loony “I’m Tired” from “Blazing Saddles.” And later, hardly
exhausted after tributes to Betty Hutton singing “Rumble, Rumble” and
Ethel Merman singing “Some People” (complete with Merman’s trademark high
C), she conjures up “Tired,’ the song which brought fame to Pearl Bailey.
nothing tired about Sharon McNight. Blessed with a pair of saucer eyes and
a cupid’s bow mouth that keeps straying to the side of her face, she is a
veritable bundle of electric energy. She knocks off Patsy Cline’s “Sweet
Dreams” and “I Fall To Pieces,” and scats her way through Martha Raye’s
jazz version of “Old Man River.” Now that’s something you won’t hear
anyone else do in a cabaret act these days!
evening is over, we’ve also been treated to Sophie Tucker belting “The Man
I Love,” Hildegarde warbling “Darling, Je Vous Aime Boucoup” in her
fractured French, and a brilliant imitation of Bette Davis, almost on key,
croaking Frank Loesser’s “They’re Either Too Young Or Too Old” complete
with a punch bowl-sized martini glass and garnished with a gargantuan
olive. All of this, of course, with the right amount of memory-invoking
patter and outlandish ad libs.
had enough? Think you’ve already laughed until your sides are splitting?
Get ready! Sharon begins singing the plaintive verse to “Over The Rainbow”
and segues into the entire Munchkin scene from “The Wizard Of Oz” where
she manages to portray Judy Garland, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton and
an entire cast of Munchkins, houses falling on witches, broomsticks flying
through the air, waltz clog steps, and side quips in quick succession.
It’s an amazing feat and she still isn’t tired!
she closed with “Bacon,” a zany homage to her favorite food, but I’m so
tempted to return to hear her sing Noel Coward’s bittersweet “If Love Were
Sharon is California-based so,
when you get a chance to see her in The Big Apple, run, do not walk to
wherever she is playing. She is the consummate cabaret comedienne at the
peak of her game.
wonderful Ian Herman is
Sharon's musical director and