Review by Evan Meena
The days of the old English musical hall danced hand-in-hand with the edgy step of the downtown cabaret when Robert Hofmann presented his one-man musical straight from Australia, What the fandango at the revelation theatre at St. John ’s during Pride Month.
The partition-covered-with costumes and the classic instrumentation (Will Holshouser absolutely masterful on the accordion piano) in the white room covered in art gave us a sense of parlor comedy or “old tyme” musical production.
Then he walked in.
Surpassing 6+ feet in a swirling dress and feathered hat was Robert Hofmann. No shrinking violet was he. The broad shouldered songbird in lady’s garb delivered a gaggle of songs from Broadway, opera, and even a little pop-culture with immense ease, using his stunning voice to bring out cheers and great laughter. A particular favorite is him singing beyond his vocal break to provide a dip in his voice that brought great guffaws … did I mention he was dressed as a nun while doing it?
Dressed as a nun, you say??!! Hofmann with the ease of an old vaudevillian slips from one outlandish character brought to keen stereotype without an ounce of offensiveness. We start with the wealthy dame, Dr. Gaye Thyme, torching it up in a red gown;
the musical maestro, Helmut Wunderlicher, whose cartoon blue ensemble and “dyed blonde” hair was a living cartoon; Susan “I know someone just like her” Higgins appeared in “plain” clothing and grabbed an audience member for an uproarious duet. The night I attended she managed to find Robert Viagas, a famed author and reviewer for Playbill and ArtIndependent, and together they made beautiful music; and finally – my favorite – the accent-laden, outspoken, Sister Virgillious whose musical mayhem and ribald humor put a real cap to this really enjoyable experience.
In constant movement switching from cabaret stance to old fashioned burlesque, Hofmann changed his costumes, took water breaks, and even commented to the crowd without ever moving. Frankly, you didn’t realize it was a costume change until the next character materialized as his every bit of staging was choreographed.
Hofmann packs an immense arsenal of skills and talent. If we were just serenaded by him – that would have been enough; if we got a chance to see him in his uproarious characters alone – that would have been enough; if we got ample helpings of his music hall merriment – that would… well you get the idea. What we got was a stunning all-around entertainer bringing an act that we – here in the U.S.A. – have never seen.
Next time, he’s in town, I’ll be first on line!