Review: THE ZIEGFELD GIRLS REVUE Exposes More Than History at The Green Room 42

It's not just little-known facts being "uncovered."

By: Apr. 18, 2024
Review: THE ZIEGFELD GIRLS REVUE Exposes More Than History at The Green Room 42
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Surprise!!  I wasn’t expecting what I got when I attended a presentation titled The Ziegfeld Girls Revue: The Follies & Frolics of America's First Superstars.  Maybe I should have been clued in by the prominent use of the words “some burlesque” in the description and noted the note that the program was recommended for those over the age of 21.  Sure, I knew that the legendary extravagant series of Ziegfeld Follies revues in the early decades of the 20th century included (among other things) plenty of glamorous showgirls, sometimes showing plenty of skin, perhaps in skin-tight costumes or sheer fabric, along with feathers and pearls and sparkles.  At The Green Room 42’s one-night-only event, there was all that costuming on display and more …. or should I say “less”?  Much of the evening’s allotted time consisted of a series of strip-tease acts.  You read that correctly.  Four of the five women in the cast, portraying specific stars of the Follies, getting two solo spots each, entered in spectacular costumes that showed quite a bit of imagination in design, but little was left to the imagination by the time they left the stage.  In stages, they removed much of what had been covering them, in some cases finally appearing in just G-strings and pasties (with or without tassels tossed).  The movements didn’t resemble the more crass bump-and-grind style — but, wait, there was indeed more to the hour than T&A, FYI.  There was also the asset of our NON-stripping hostess, who sang and cheekily delivered the fact-filled narration about the women’s careers: their time in the Follies, and more. 

Providing the 411 about Ziegfeld’s ladies’ humble beginnings and/or sad endings, stardom, scandals, sorrows, marriages, movies, miseries,  Kimberly Faye Greenberg, game and glib and firmly in character, portraying the famous Follies star, comedienne and singer Fanny Brice.  She’s portrayed the Ziegfeld/vaudeville/radio legend in various projects, including the one-woman show/cast album One Night with Fanny Brice devised by Chip Deffaa.  

As a change of pace from the strips and struts, the entertaining Miss Greenberg offered her performances of two signature songs.  (She was the only one who sang — or spoke.)  The numbers were the comic “Second Hand Rose” and the ultimate torch number “My Man.” If they felt somewhat perfunctory rather than milking the merriment or melodrama, respectively, that is partially due to the fact that the accompaniment was pre-recorded tracks. There was no live music in this show, although appropriate choices of clear-sounding canned music was played for all segments.  The grand piano, which I’ve heard played by so many grand musicians at shows at this nightclub was orphaned onstage, sadly relegated to being merely the depository for parts of costumes doffed and left behind by the other women exposing theirs.  More bits and pieces were dropped to the floor during their sets, and the Green Room’s Greenberg was made to play maid, picking them up during her talk, handling handing them offstage.

Review: THE ZIEGFELD GIRLS REVUE Exposes More Than History at The Green Room 42 My companion and I, both devotees of musical theatre, had hoped for an evening of live music featuring more vintage Ziegfeld zip than unzip, were nonplussed.  Others clearly found the stripping to be a plus. There was encouraging cheering, some leering, and admiration for the talent and attitude-prominent confidence shown and for the craft of the varied dramatic costumes that caught the light and caught attention.  But Florenz Ziegfeld’s stated goal of “glorifying the American girl” in large-cast variety shows with some elegance and extravagance were not known as displays of disrobing. Yes, some of the women did pose nude in their off-stage time and the rooftop Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics offshoot was racier.     

Certainly producer Nicole Holst – who made a grateful, graceful curtain speech – allowed for a cornucopia of interesting and eyebrow-raising facts to be included, accompanied by photos of the real-life Follies females.

Besides the characterization of Fanny Brice, we saw: Dandy Dillinger as Mae Murray, known as “The Girl with the Bee Stung Lips”; Rosie Cheeks as Olive Thomas, billed as “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York;  Seedy Edie as Louise Brooks, whose hairstyle was much copied and was called “The Most Infamous Bad Girl of the Follies”; and Whiskey Jules as Julie Newmar, the “Amazonian Beauty” familiar from stage roles and playing Batman character Catwoman.   

The narration told us which woman was the married Ziegfeld’s mistress, which one was rumored to have been “accidentally” poisoned, which one’s ghost is rumored to haunt the New Amsterdam Theatre, which was married the most, which reached the most dizzying cinematic heights but then had the saddest great fall since Humpty Dumpty.  Audience involvement came into the picture when Miss Dillinger came up to patrons at the tables, inviting them to pop –one by one — the big balloons that covered her body.  It was a nod, historically, to the actual actions of customers seated in the rooftop nightclub for the Midnight Frolic shows in those days when smoking was allowed and the popping was done by their lit cigarettes and cigars.

See more @nicolenadineproductions.

Find more upcoming shows at the Green Room 42 on their website.


Comments

Nicole Nadine Productions on 4/23/2024
Thank you Rob for the review and for coming to the show! Just one correction, FYI - the role of Olive Thomas portrayed in the balloon-popping act was portrayed by Miss Rosie Cheeks, not Miss Dandy Dillinger, who played Mae Murray. I am so glad you were surprised as that is exactly what I was going for. :) In all of my shows I strive to pay homage to the past while adding my own twist and modern-day innovation, much like Ziegfeld himself as I learned while researching this show. So I take it as the highest compliment that it was not what you'd typically expect to see at The Green Room 42! This show was inspired by the book, "Jazz Age Beauties," containing the original Alfred Cheney Johnson photos where these goddess-like women were portrayed nude or semi-nude, hence the burlesque, which I do believe was done tastefully as you mentioned. However, I'm afraid I have to disagree that it did not glorify the amazing modern-day Ziegfeld girls I chose, even if it was not in the typical way. I believe they embodied not just the beauty of the original women, but their depth of character, complex inner worlds, and multi-faceted talents. The audience members I spoke to found them captivating while also saying they learned something about their histories, and I am so glad that came across and resonated. P.S. I planned to use the piano for a 1920s-themed piano/singer duo pre-show but was not allowed by the venue, hence the slideshow and canned vintage music. Thanks again for the kind words and for taking the time to attend, even if it wasn't what you expected! :) - Nicole Holst, Producer of the Ziegfeld Girl Revue, www.nicolenadineproductions.com @nicolenadineproductions



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