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A CurtainUp Review

Fame Takes A Holiday

Night of 1, 000 Heels review (1999)
Interview with co-author Warren Leight

The High Heeled women whose Night of 1,000 Heels I reviewed just a year ago, are back at a MaMa e.t.c. with another mini-musical, Fame Takes a Holiday. The latest adventures of the high heeled quartet is again clowned, sung and danced by Abigail Gampel, Deborah LaCoy, Susan Murphy and Mary Purdy. The nun and the sister who steals the father of her illegitimate baby and then talks her into also letting her adopt the baby are back. . . so, all too briefly, are the hilarious Iranian plate spinners and their Joy bottles, though the "plot" no longer spins around their stolen plates.

The 1999 show made no pretense at a big story and theme. It was staged cabaret style in La MaMa's club and whizzed through eighty intermissionless minutes; its book, such as it was, an obvious device to string the skits together.

Now the cabaret setup is out, a new musical director (Dick Gallagher) is in, along with several newly composed tunes, notably Je Ne Regrout Rien, belted out with Piaf-like flair by Abigail Gampel. Fame Takes a Holiday also expands the backstage squabbles about who sings what song into a full scale plot, with Gampel playing ruthlessly fame driven Crystal who jumps ship and moves on to sitcom fame. The group struggles on, and the pint-sized Medea's final and almost fatal backstage stab leaves them bloodied but determinedly upbeat -- urging men as well as women in the audience to reach for that loftier place of their dreams, even if it's only as much as a four inch heel off the ground.

Does the new show rate as high or higher than The Night of a Thousand Heels? Having found everything to like and nothing to quibble about in Heels, I'm reminded of the old adage about not fixing what isn't broken. The backstage plot of the new show tends to get in the way of the best numbers and the new material isn't consistently on target. As for the lyrics, the pianist (not credited in the program) who is now relegated behind the curtain), seems so intent on making his presence felt that he often drowns out the performers. Maybe before the run ends, Director Fulham could "Shush the Piano Player."

I should point out that most of the people in attendance last Saturday seemed to have none of my reservations. Some audience members sitting near me almost fell off their seats laughing.

by Cassandra Danz, Mary Fulham and Warren Leight
Music by Tracey Berg, Dick Gallagher, Cliff Korman and Marc Shaima
Directed by Mary Fulham
Musical Director: Dick Gallagher
Cast: Abigail Gampel, Deborah LaCoy, Susan Murphy and Mary Purdy
Choreographer: Barbara Allen
Set Design: Greg Mercurio
Lighting Design: David Adams
Costume Design: Ramona Ponce
Sound Design: Tim Schellenbaum
Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including one intermission
La MaMa E.T.C. (First Floor Theater), 74A E. Fourth St. 475-7710
Thursday-Sunday at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:30pm
10/26/2000-11/19/200; opening 11/28 /2000
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 11/28 performance

Night of 1,000 Heels
The High Heeled Women troupe has been kicking up its heels for more than a decade in one sly ode or another to elusive feminine standards. The original high heelers aptly called themselves the Marx Sisters. Happily, one of them, Mary Fulham, has now co-authored and directed a some things old/some things new mini-musical that's as deliciously funny and tuneful as its title, Night of 1,000 Heels implies. The some things old include material by Warren Side Man Leight (see links). Some things new are provided by Fulham and Cassandra Danz, another High Heel stalwart.

I dub this a mini-musical strictly because of its small cast and one man band (an upright piano). However, it doesn't take more than a minute into the show to see that there's nothing small about the talents of the current quartet of High Heelers. Each has her own delightfully zany persona, and all work together with clockwork precise comic pitch and timing. The show even has a book to link the skits together -- a gala hosted by The High Heeled women to support The Society for the Prevention of Colorization of B-Movies from the Thirties and Forties.

To complicate the plot and facilitate the full speed ahead hilarity, it seems that somebody has stolen the plates from a variety act of Iranian women platespinners. But not to worry. This is the age of plastics, and in the show's pinnacle of Marxian high jinks -- the High Heeled Women, in robes that could have been ripped off the rack of a clothing stand in a Mideastern Medina, dance with manic flair as they spin plastic plates and juggle them with containers of Joy. Yes, they use the Joy to clean the plates and yes, we do learn who stole the plates!

There are too many other bits of inspired lunacy to detail. Suffice it to say that there really isn't a dud in the lineup. The saga of a young nun (Susan Murphy) with an illegitimate baby best illustrates the clever word play that prevails. When she looks cast down after giving up her illegitimate baby to the mean sister (Mary Purdy) who steals her man the Mother Superior (Abigail Gampel) tells her to stop being sad because "nobody likes a Blue Nun." (Methinks I detected the voice of Warren Leight in skits like this as well as the scene where the women read from the commemorative book of highlights from the great classics).

The tiny stage of La MaMa's Club is given just enough pizazz to suggest the gala that ties the show together. Chris Field's many costume include some amusing sight gags (like the Trojan packages packed into the head pieces of a Carmen Miranda-like singer and her backups) and add to the fun. The music by Cliff Korman, Marc Shaiman and Michael Sansonia is spot on in its evocation of the period films whose black and white glory the High Heelers are trying to preserve Michael Sansonia deserves a special bravo for keeping his cool even when Abigail Gampel plants a high heel on his keyboard.

At eighty minutes (without intermission), Night of 1,000 Heels is neither too short or too long, but paced just right. While you can easily spend three or four times what you'll pay for this eighty minute, intermissionless show, you're unlikely to enjoy yourself more or laugh harder.

Our review of another Warren Leight's Side Man , and his skit-noir Stray Cats
For our interview with Warren Leight go here

Written by Cassandra Danz, Mary Fulham, Warren Leight
Music by Cliff Korman, Marc Shaiman, Michael Sansonia
Directed by Mary Fulhalm
Musical Director: Michael Sansonia
Starring The High Heeled Women: Abigail Gampel, Deborah LaCoy, Susan Murphy and Mary Purdy
Set design: Gregory Mercurio
Costume design: Chris Field
Lighting design: David Adams
Choreography: Barbara Allen
Technical direction: Mark Tambella
La MaMa E.T.C.
74A East 4th Street (between 2nd Avenue & Bowery) (212/475-7100)
Thursday-Saturday at 10pm, Sunday at 5pm; tickets: $15.00
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer; Seen 2/28 matinee

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