BWW Review: RED HOT MAMA at Seven Angels Theatre

BWW Review: RED HOT MAMA at Seven Angels Theatre

It is a unique situation to experience a musical that is written and directed by the star of the show, but the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, CT has brought the amazing talent of writer, director, actress, and singer Sharon McNight to the stage in the musical comedy RED HOT MAMA, which tells the story of Sophie Tucker through song and narration by Sharon McNight, as Sophie Tucker. I had the pleasure of seeing this show on February 24.

Sharon McNight becomes Sophie Tucker on stage, breaking the fourth wall, but never breaking character. She does such an amazing job mimicking the speaking and singing voice of Sophie Tucker, as well as Sophie Tucker's vocal mannerisms, that it is easy for the audience to forget that we are not seeing the real Sophie Tucker performing a live concert.

A talented three piece band is on stage, including Brent C. Mauldin as conductor and on piano. Richard Scarola is on stand-up bass. Depending on the performance, either Mark Ryan or Kurt Berglund is on drums. The band plays well together, with Brent C. Mauldin occasionally delivering some comedic lines, and singing lead on "Ain't She Sweet," the only song in this show that I was familiar with prior to seeing this show.

Even though Sophie Tucker passed away years before I was born, I found it fascinating to learn about one of the earliest women of American show business, and what her life was like. I found it interesting that she had been arrested several times for the controversial nature of some of her live performances. Her attitudes seemed to reflect someone who was in deep emotional pain and disillusionment yet wanted to convey to her fans that she had it all together.

The most interesting fact I learned from her narration is that Sophie Tucker had sang "When the Red, Red Robin," prior to Al Jolson's signature rendition. As one of the most enduring songs of the first half of the 20th Century, I had no idea that Sophie Tucker was at one point an influential force behind it. While that song is not sung in this musical, I still left the theatre with that song in my mind, due to the mention of it.

Among the songs that are performed in this musical, my favorite is called "What'll You Do," a song that was written by C. Cohn, E. Erdman, and I. Jones, in 1927. Even though I had not heard this song before, the melody sounded familiar. I soon realized why. In 1968, the Beatles used a very similar melody on the White Album track, "Honey Pie," which was written by Paul McCartney.

I found this show to be very entertaining. I recommend it, particularly to senior audiences, and anyone who has an appreciation for musical styles of the first half of the 20th Century. The performance is brilliant and informative. RED HOT MAMA is scheduled to continue to run at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, CT, through Sunday, March 11. For tickets and times, please go to http://sevenangelstheatre.org/.

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