Julian Eaves reviews Broadway’s Jackie Hoffman appearing with Seth Rudetsky in the Seth Concert Series online.
The Seth Concert Series with Jackie Hoffman and Seth Rudetsky
Online live and repeated, Sunday 21st March
‘Immersive Theatre’, was the opening number of this instalment of the now long-running cabaret-chatshow ‘of the virtual air’, hosted by the all-knowing, all-powerful and all-pervasive Mr Rudetsky: the only ‘R’ number musical theatre fans really feel motivated to get out of bed for. And Jackie Hoffman was the right exponent for this material, a brassy, sassy, no-nonsense New York girl, who draws upon this rep like a sorceress pulling water out of some forgotten magic well.
The second number pushed right on into this strange, unfamiliar territory, with Our Mr R. slamming the joanna right along with her, in best Marc Blitzstein fashion. Cabaret, you see, can have ‘edge’. [If any hardy regulars to this show had been wondering just where all that famed Big Apple ‘astringency’ had skedaddled off to, then this episode clearly saw its mission to redress that particular imbalance. And how.]
Jackie can just stroll through this kind of stuff, though. Like the time she had a Fibroid cyst in her stomach, and she said it ‘looked like a 5-month old fetus. People would ask, “Are you pregnant?”. And I’d say, ‘No, thank God: it’s just a tumour.”‘
The third song remained firmly located in the land of the unfamiliar; a charming, tinkly, sixties-stylee cabaret song about Bill Cosby’s conviction for rape. Edgy enough for you? And then we launched into an equally provocative discussion of her breakthrough into Broadway, in ‘Hairspray’ no less; and Jackie’s jolly repartee here earned an on-screen disclaimer by one of the named parties, producer Marc Shaiman: ‘None of this is true’.
Just what the audience likes to hear! Whom to believe? DRAMA!
Then another chirpy ditty from Joe’s Pub, her (former?) diseuse/chanteuse haunt: ‘Three Minutes on Broadway’ (with music by Lon Hoyt; Jackie writes the lyrics, often as not). More of the same followed, courtesy of Lord and Taylor, which takes us back a ways.
A medley then followed, with bits of ‘Hairspray’ (by the virtually present Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman), the intoxicating title track from ‘Xanadu’ (Jeff Lynne and John Farrar), and more. So much more!
Back to the real world of competitions and contests, we got a snatch of, ‘Shy’ from Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer’s, ‘Once Upon A Mattress’. And then Jackie shrilly shook us up again with another song of hers, ‘Get To The Point’, the song which – incidentally – opened 54 Below, infamous cabaret dive in NYC. More lighter material followed, rejoicing in Hoffman’s ability to laugh at herself and all the things that life has thrown at her. ‘At The Right Aid’ showed us this (I think).
Edgy cabaret-chatshows keep ALL of us on the edge of our seats, you see. And thence to… the Yiddish-language version of Bock and Harnick’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’: Hoffman gave us an English-language ‘reportage’ of her involvement with this steppe-breaking project. This gave rise to a lot of very funny stories about the audience, and their irony-free comments on Jackie’s, and the company’s performances. Eg. right at the end of the show, with everyone standing around shocked and distraught at the chaos brought down on Anatevka by the pogrom, stunned into silence, with little Chava sobbing quietly: one audience member cried out, ‘What is SHE crying for?’
A brisk bit more of a botox-related song, and then we landed at the epilogue. And NO-ONE could have predicted what came: the Yiddish-language version of, ‘Rose’s Turn’ from ‘Gypsy’.
PS And you can get more of Jackie H on CD, available from her website (or it is promised to be… very soon!) It was advertised on the show – several times – so I see nothing wrong in plugging it here!
Next week Ashley Spencer and Kara Lindsay