Kiki & Herb: Coup de Theatre, a CurtainUp review CurtainUp

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A CurtainUp Review
Kiki & Herb: Coup de Theátre

Even before Justin Bond's fictional alter ego, can tell you how excited she is "to be on a legitimate stage after 30 years of cruise ships, nightclubs and game shows", the audience expresses its own enthusiasm with wild cheers. These diehard Kiki & Herb fans, probably more than half those in attendance, are the fuel that powered Bond and his patrner Kenny Mellman's invented duo ' s journey from mostly club gigs to an open run at the venerable Cherry Lane Theater and with well-regarded legit director, Scott Elliot, on hand to supervise their coup de theátre.

In case you're one of the potential new fans Kiki says they need to attract because "between the AIDS and the Alzheimers, we don't have a fan left over forty" some background: Kiki is a sixty-something boozy chanteuse and Herb is her long-time pianist. Their act is a combination of songs (delivered in an aggressive, so-bad-it's-good vocal style) and patter (a mix of sharply observed often politically incorrect commentary and soap opera memoir). Straight man Herb, besides tickling the ivories with remarkable energy and considerable skill, is not averse to also bursting into his own version of so-bad-it's-good song to give Kiki a chance to go backstage for a costume change.

To add to the legit aspects of this Kiki & Herb incarnation, there's also a sleek set by Derek McLane whose stage craft is spectacularly showcased in a quite different sort of gender bending show, I Am My Own Wife. (Review). While there's not a moment's doubt that I Am My Own Wife belongs on a legitimate stage, you can't really transform a lounge act into a genuine coup de theátre.

That's not to say that the show isn't a lot of fun with some edgy humor along with a few touching moments. Kiki is engaging, whether on stage or in the aisle looking for the daughter who never makes her appearance, engagingly forcing an audience member to dance with her. From what a friend who's been to previous Kiki & Herb shows tells me, Mr. Elliott has actually subdued Kiki's more outrageous behavior -- she still attacks the liquor bottle with abandon, but the glass never flies.

The songs (18 in all) are mostly borrowed from pop artists, with a few alterations in the lyrics and all uniquely Kiki's.

Marc Happel has dressed Kiki with suitable glitz, with her main outfit providing a generous glimpse of the shapely legs that many a woman would kill for. Even the most dedicated Kiki & Herb fan is likely to admit that even Mr. Elliott's smooth direction can't keep things from sagging well before the end of the intermissionless hour and forty minutes. Still, if the response of the audience is any indication, Bond and Mellman are likely to be around for as long as their alter egos claim to be.

Kiki & Herb: Coup de Theátre
Book: Justin Bond
Musical Direction: Kenny Mellman
Directed by Scott Elliott
Cast: Justin Bond, Kenny Mellman
Set Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Marc Happel
Lighting Design: Jason Lyons
Sound Design: Ken Travis
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes no intermission
Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce St. (off 7th Avenue, 1 block south of Bleecker) 212-239-6200 From 4/25/03; opened 5/07/03
Tue - Thu at 8pm-- $50; Fri & Sat at 7pm, 10pm -- $55
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 5/28 performance

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