Evan Meena reviews Granny’s Blue-Mers: One Hour Mama
One Hour Mama solidified my decision to be a Granny groupie.
Having seen the show last season, I was taken with the presentation of rare material like the racy tunes of yesteryear. For so many reasons – good and really stupid – most singers would shy away from the bulk of these tunes. Mary Elizabeth Micari (aka Rev. Mary) should first be lauded for finding, arranging, and then unabashedly presenting these pieces.
On the topic of presentation, Granny’s Blue-Mers – now in its second year – has always been a clever, well-produced piece of musical theater. Mashing time-period instrumentation (piano, ukulele, harmonic) with vaudeville trickery (washboards and kazoos) to create an entertaining musical event perfect for today’s audience, Granny is a spot-on depiction of a bygone era.
Now, its third iteration, One Hour Mama, elevated Granny to a new and thrilling level.
Now there’s Rev. Mary. The rapid rise of Granny’s Blue-Mers is testament to her phenomenal voice, which can go from rousing roar to soft serenade with ease. What we see this time is a more refined character. Rev. Mary created a backstory and setting that- thanks to some well-prepared patter and simple lighting tricks – ushered the audience right into the “old tyme” atmosphere. Her costuming and demeanor also was more detailed and engaging. Her voice – always a delight – painted even more colors into the colorful tunes, adding a richness that turns these speak-easy ditties into legit musical moments worthy of attention. Basically, Rev, Mary has laid the ground work in turning Granny and her Blue-Mers into a iconic part of the cabaret skyline.
Rev. Mary returned with a new group of musicians and singers – each a powerhouse in their own right. Lauren Elder – a Broadway performer and champion whistler (yep, that’s right – official world champion) backed up Rev. Mary and handed in two dynamic solos of her own, complete with a whistling break that solicited great applause from the crowd. Elder has a charming tone that both hearkens back to the vaudeville days as well as some clever styling plucked from modern musical thinking; Andrew Beall, on percussion – a new twist to the production – did the same on the skins and woods. Keeping the heartbeat of the program, he peppered many moments with scratchers, bells, wood blocks, and so much more. Again, handing us 1917 and 2017 with each rim-shot. I would be remiss if i did not mention Beall is also the composer of Songs of Solomon, a musical making a name for itself here in NY as well as internationally.
Mario Claudio (returning from the original company) supplied lovely, flawless back-up harmony to the good Rev. His costuming was that of an affected male chanteuse of the time, not dissimilar to Alan Cumming’s emcee in Cabaret. His exposition about a blues singer who was a transvestite and then worked for the pentagon brought great laughs and full justification to his character presence. Rachel Kaufman took the reigns as musical director and accompanist for the production, pounding out amazing arrangements that started the audience toe-tapping. Event producer, Jay Michaels, brought his years as a stage director to the table for this iteration, giving us the evident “schmaltz” the show now possesses.
One Hour Mama will perform November 17 at the West end Lounge. An intimate space that – in décor and style – should be a perfect fit for the vaudeville vixen and her quirky quartet.
I was admonished by my editor for submitting a second review (after posting one last year for her inaugural showing) so I guess I’ll just have to buy a ticket in November and enjoy the show as a fan.