BWW Review: MICHAEL & MARDIE…AND OTHER DELIGHTS at The Birdland Theater Is A Lot Of Other And Not So Many Delights.
Heigh-Ho, My Rainbow Tribe! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in CABARET to bring you all the T.
Well, my lambs, for all the rainbows we see a little rain must fall and Friday night at The Birdland Theatre, Bobby needed his Bumbershoot. With MICHAEL & MARDIE... AND OTHER DELIGHTS the eponymous* couple brought a show THEY describe as "Steve & Eydie meet The Three Stooges" ... Trouble is, those two very entertaining styles go together like hammer and ice cream. Separately The Stooges and Steve & Eydie had their particular chemistry that made those things they did work and work beautifully, especially where laughs were concerned. You know what else The Stooges and Steve & Eydie were my darlings? They were A LONG TIME AGO. Equating one's club act in 2020 with performers and their styles from so many years gone by can either be kitschy or pass you down the road to passe. Especially when your show is a confusing mishmash tribute to the music of the 1960s where you pull from the likes of such stylistically diverse artists as Cream, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Peggy Lee, and Bock & Harnick. A show that tributes Rock and Roll of the '60s, Broadway of the '60s, R&B of the '60s, Jazz of the 60's - you get the idea - begins to spread out before you like a sea of saltwater taffy... too sweet, too chewy and bound to stick to your dental work. Another shortcoming of MICHAEL & MARDIE... AND OTHER DELIGHTS is Michael & Mardie themselves. They're cute to be sure. Mardie has a kicky pink bob of a doo and Michael likes to yuck it up and wink at the audience... a lot. Separately, these two are both capable performers when they can get their eyes off their ever-present scripts and stop reading their act to us. Michael plays the piano smoothly and sings in a pleasantly soft, comfortable voice with a lot of feeling and pathos. Mardie is a trained soprano who can dip into her belt-y range and really put a song over. So what happened? Why was their show so much that mixture of hammer and ice cream?
It has to do with the aforementioned CHEMISTRY. As is our usual practice in seeing an act for the first time, your rainbow boy did not "research" Michael & Mardie prior to their show so as to not form any pre-opinions and to keep the experience fresh, so this was my intro to the work of this apparently long term performing partnership. You see, students, liking each other does not produce onstage chemistry. Rapport is not chemistry, friendship is not chemistry, even LOVE is not chemistry ... Chemistry is Chemistry and it as elusive an element as its own definition. Unlike that hammer and icecream, chemistry is flint and steel. When they go together, they produce sparks... It is, in fact, that indefinable something that performers have - or they don't - that can create those sparks on stage that will take their show to another level. None of which were apparent between this team during their show on Friday.
After entering the stage with Michael visibly prompting his, mostly friendly, familiar audience to give them a big welcome, they took their places on either side of BL's grand piano and began to sing... and that was it. That was the show. Not once did they leave their respective sides of the stage to change physical proximity, do a bit, or give a new angle on relating to each other. In fact, a large percentage of their performance was a face out and play to the back of the room style that didn't give us much feeling of teamwork. Yes, they gave due attention to each other during their solos, with Michael providing expert accompaniment to Mardie while she sang quite beautifully. They yucked it up for the crowd with a heavy-ish hand here and there (and got a lot of laughs,) but their almost entirely scripted patter came across entirely scripted, especially since they felt the need to read from Michael's book on the piano or Mardie's iPad (on a funny looking stand down center) that she continuously touched & scrolled, touched & scrolled even at points losing her place and having to say so until she got back on track. At one point she even resorted to reading some recently scribed material off her cell phone. Now, we are not averse to seeing performers doing new material and having to work things out. It is essential in the creative process and no doubt, my pets. The GREAT Joan Rivers, even in the last year we were able to enjoy her in this life, would set up at The Duplex and let her crowd know they were there to see a work in progress as she and her 3X5 cards still made us laugh more than a barrel of gay monkeys. But, if your charging that door and two drink minimum, and saying, "Come see our show!" GURL!! know your words! All of this coupled with a show that seemed to lack cohesion and many numbers that started out well but then were undercut by the pair attempting to make comedy within their arrangements sent their showdown paths to nowhere. Their 4 separate medlies that all fell flat with only their odd tribute to 60's psychedelics partially working comedically, made the 1-hour show seem longer than it should.
Whether it was the unbridged distance between them on stage or the scripted anchor around their necks (or both) that left this rainbow boy cold, it's difficult to say. Michael & Mardie are both fine musical performers in their own right, but their mix in this show did not catch fire and we hope they go back to the drawing board with a director (none was listed on their setlist and if they mentioned one, we missed it) and re-tool MICHAEL & MARDIE...AND OTHER DELIGHTS which we, regretfully, award 2 Rainbows out of 5 for occasional cute-ness.
* Y'all know Bobby knows words right?
** Performance Photos By Yours Truly, Bobby Patrick