BWW Review: LESLIE AND LOLLY'S BIZARRE BRUNCH Brings Leslie Carrara-Rudolph Back to The Laurie Beechman Theatre
When a woman has a unique comedy talent that she presents to people, she is usually compared to one of the women who came before her. Any woman with madcap antics, a propensity for costume characters, an abandon that allows her to behave in the wildest, craziest most unbelievable ways imaginable is quite apt to be compared to the likes of Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, Andrea Martin or any of the women who paved the path for all of the female comics in the history of show business. It would be very easy to compare Leslie Carrara-Rudolph to these brilliant comic females who came before her, but it would not be accurate. One could even compare Leslie Carrara-Rudolph to Shari Lewis, by simple virtue of the fact that they both work(ed) with sock puppets, but it would not be accurate. An argument could be made for comparing Leslie Carrara-Rudolph to any other entertainment, but it would not be accurate.
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is an original. She stands on her own merit, but she does not stand alone. She stands with a menagerie of friends, both inside of her head and out; and every one of them is someone worth getting to know, because they, like Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, are all FABULOUS.
LESLIE AND LOLLY'S BIZARRE BRUNCH is an ongoing show at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. It's not a regularly scheduled event, so fans of the performers or of the brunch have to stay on their toes to keep up on when Leslie and Lolly Lardpop will be appearing in the cabaret room where one can find more fun than any other - and it is worth the effort to find out when the next Bizarre Brunch is because this isn't just any old fun, it's LCR fun, and LCR comes with her own barometer when it comes to laughter. The lady is crazy talented, or maybe just crazy. If you try to figure out where she gets the ideas, the stamina, or the unparalleled talent that she displays during her 75-minute series of sketches, you yourself might go crazy. Using more props than an entire troupe of improv artists, more costume/hair/makeup changes than a sketch comedy group, and more energy than a kindergarten class that has just had a king-size Snickers and a Mountain Dew, Ms. Carrara-Rudolph presents her off-the-wall character creations, a million and one laughs including pratfalls, dropped draws, audience participation, toiletries, innuendo, and anything else that she can get her hands on or her brain wrapped around. If it weren't so funny, it would be exhausting because LCR moves at the speed of light... Or the speed of sound... which one travels faster? Because that's the one that LCR is moving at - but not just with her body, with her mind and her mouth. She can think of something funny to say or do and have the humor out on the stage faster than you could ever move your eyes from stage left to stage right. Nothing throws her, and she just keeps moving, making each moment funnier than the next, making you think that miracles really do happen because that's what Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is: a miracle.
At last weekend's performance of Leslie and Lolly's Bizarre Bruch, the house was completely full of fans and would-be fans, and you could tell who was which. The newcomers to The Wonderful Mind of Leslie could be easily spotted because they were the ones whose mouths were wide open in disbelief as they tried to keep up with her (good luck), re-hear what she just said before moving on to what she was saying now, and stay in the story, trying to not laugh (good luck) for fear of missing something. There's no real story arc, though there are connecting themes and skits throughout the show, all of them based on Leslie and Lolly hosting The Bizarre Brunch, and while every single minute that Ms. Carrara-Rudolph is on the stage is one big high, it is particularly special when Lolly Lardpop and Granny Dot appear because it isn't every day of the week you get to see a world-class puppeteer ply their craft, and seeing one like LCR in a small setting like The Laurie Beechman is a real treat. To attempt to describe the Bizarre Brunch would do a disservice to Carrara-Rudolph, but it would also take away some of the fun in store for future audiences. Suffice it to say, it actually IS bizarre; it is also incredibly touching at times and that is because, for all the manic craziness of LCR & Co., Leslie begins from her heart, then she puts on the many layers of costumes, hairpieces, comedy, music, and characters - then, one by one, she reveals them and strips it all away until there is nothing left but her heart again, which is probably why she ended her Valentine's show with a love song for her husband, Paul Rudolph, who happens to be on stage with her, as a member of the band (led perfectly by Michael Hicks). Ms. Carrara-Rudolph's heart was also plainly visible in the love showing on her face when members of the Laurie Beechman family participated in her final number by donning safety ponchos and performing to her re-written version of Vogue, with Katelynn Kennedy Staggs, Michael Kirk Lane, and Adam Sarette taking part in really significant ways as LCR paid tribute to empowered women from the past and present, women like Carol Burnett, Imogene Coca, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Chita Rivera, who happened to be present at the performance, completely unaware that there was a parody number (with accompanying video) that featured her name and face, a moment that took her completely by surprise. It was one of those times in a cabaret room that people don't forget.
On Sunday there were three standing ovations for Leslie and Lolly, and each of them was led by Chita Rivera. If that doesn't say enough about LESLIE AND LOLLY'S BIZARRE BRUNCH, then nothing this writer says can say it better. Only this one word: Go.
Leslie and Lolly's Bizarre Brunch will resume in May and June. Tickets go on sale next week at The Laurie Beechman https://www.westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman-theatre
Photos by Helane Blumfield