Seeking some reception-room detox, I recently went to check out the last bastion of an almost forgotten era, and perhaps entertainment at its purest -- a cabaret show.
These shows draw from a colorful history, ranging from the cancan in Paris, decedent cabaret clubs during Germany's Weimar era, saloons in the American West and mobster speakeasies during Prohibition.
Le ScandalI didn't know what to expect from New York's longest-running variety show,
The Good Ol' DaysDunn says the main appeal of the Le Scandal show -- and cabaret in general -- is a campy innocence that harks back to the old days of entertainment. "It's funny and outrageous ... people want to see live performers again," she says. Growing up in New Orleans, Dunn was inspired by what she refers to as the "burlesque sensibility" of the famous French Quarter. She recorded with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and has sung all over the world in jazz clubs and cabarets. "Some of the women that danced
The Art of EntertainmentEverything about Le Scandal is upfront and live, including the house band, the New York City Blues Devils, fronted by the gritty howls of lead singer Danny Biondo. Dunn considers cabaret a folk art, because it's performed in an intimate setting where the success of the show depends on audience participation. The new cabaret and vaudeville, says Dunn, are not just recreations of 1930s numbers. They have to have a punch and some humor thrown in -- after all, burlesque was originally meant as a parody of Italian opera. Le Scandal revelers consist mostly of 20- and 30-somethings, but Dunn has seen senior citizens in walkers and parents with teenagers. "Europeans love it," she adds. "There's certainly not a stigma because the show is very theatrically based." So instead of shelling out a hundred dollars for a ticket to a Broadway show, come to Le Scandal and pay $20 to the mysterious woman at the door, or $55 for the show and a prix fixe dinner prepared by Manhattan's famous Tavern on the Green restaurant.
The People's TheaterJames Habacker, co-owner of
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