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BWW Review: Jack Bartholet Dazzles In LADY WITH A SONG at Club Cumming

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BWW Review: Jack Bartholet Dazzles In LADY WITH A SONG at Club Cumming

Jack Bartholet brought the raw, sequined, and at times aggro energy of his show "Lady With A Song" to Club Cumming on October 21st. The show was written and performed by Bartholet, directed by Julian Fleisher and musically directed by Yasuhiko Fukuoka.

Bartholet has crafted an impressive show that balances the dazzling polish of his tall matinee idol vocals with a more bare, witty, open-hearted storytelling, which he brings to bear on the tragic outcomes born of toxic masculinity, such as gun violence, in a brilliant act of what he calls Cabe-RAGE-a portmanteau of cabaret and rage of his own devising. Where his musical performances approach frozen perfection, his spoken words are more real, more honest, less of a production. The show is ambitious, daring, powerful and entertaining.

One of the show's great highlights-of which there were many-occurred when guitarist Mathilde Bernabei took center stage to sing her original work "...Or Forever Hold Your Peace," which she mentioned Bartholet helped her write. The audience went wild for her soulful singing and compassionate messaging that "love is power, love is peace and it's all we need." Bartholet's heartrending rendition of Rufus Wainright's "Dinner at 8," which accompanied an anecdote of seeing tears in his father's eyes at his wedding, was also phenomenal. These two performances alone are worth the price of admission.

Bartholet makes wonderful choices in material, particularly with the inclusion of the defiantly queer "The Lavender Song," in a translation that cabaret audiences may know from Jeremy Lawrence's cabaret Lavender Songs. Bartholet brings a strident and, in moments, punk sensibility to this Weimar Republic cabaret gem. He pairs this with a sublime and haunting rendition of "Where Have All The Flowers Gone."

At the center of Bartholet's Cabe-RAGE! is the pain of losing family members to self-harm from gun violence. Two of Bartholet's relations committed suicide which he attributes to toxic masculinity of guns.

Bartholet makes a beautiful choice to close his show with Lizzo's "Coconut Oil." He made his way through the audience anointing the crowd with the healing self-care of a coconut oil balm as he sang. I keep coming back to how Bartholet's buttery smooth vocals-a hallmark of the evening-served to soothe the audience as he approached such heavy topics as toxic masculinity and gun violence, much like a coconut oil balm.

Some sections do generate more heat than light, particularly his rendition of Nellie McKay's "Mother of Pearl," which is a satire of tired attacks on feminists, featuring lines like "On-demand abortion, every city (okay, but no gun control) Won't these women ever get a life" and "They're far too sensitive to ever be a ham. That's why these feminists just need to find a man."


Bartholet shares that he was called out on the piece last summer at a theater convention by a young woman who did not find it funny and demanded accountability of him. Bartholet shrugs this off by defensively reminding he is a clown in a tutu and that he holds no legislative power. It is troubling that someone speaking their truth would, then, become a part of the act as an object of ridicule. It lays bare still to be untangled threads of toxic masculinity he calls on all to address.

There is a long tradition of clowns speaking truth to power, and this is one of the strengths of Bartholet's show in sum. Listening to this tale of a young woman who did not find "Mother of Pearl" funny, I wondered if this anecdote was an extension of the song's satire? I'm still not sure.


It's not enough to shield against rebuke by assuming the privileged role of a clown and shrugging off accountability for the power of our words.

Since the show, I've spent a lot of time contemplating the presence of "Mother of Pearl" and its accompanying anecdote play in the show. This part of the show was challenging for me as both an audience member and as an advocate. Ultimately, Batholet's choice to include the song and subsequent anecdote is a form of accountability. He stands by his words, which we are left to reckon with, just as we all must grapple with our relationships to toxic masculinity.

But the show also left me grappling with the parts of my advocacy that are less compassionate, less willing to bridge divides, less willing to be in communion with others seeking similar goals. I keep coming back to the sage words of Audre Lorde: "The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us."

Earlier in the evening, during Bourgeois & Maurice's "Save The World," Bartholet states: "I do want to save the world and I'm sure you do as well and in order to do that we're gonna have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We're going to have to communicate. I think that may do it." It's clear Bartholet is doing the work. Even if our politics don't neatly align, I left more interested in what unites us than what divides us. I think that speaks to the power of what Bartholet accomplishes with this show.

You can catch Lady With A Song this Friday, November 1st at 9:30 pm when it returns to Pangea. Tickets are available Here

To learn about Jack Bartholet you can visit his Website
Visit his YouTube channel Here
Follow Jack Bartholet on Twitter @jabartholet
Or Instagram @jack.bartholet

 



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From This Author Scottie Roche