Review - My Sinatra & The Naked Truth
"Mensch" is not a word you might immediately think of to describe Frank Sinatra, but the label seems to fit Cary Hoffman quite snugly. And though his solo musical, My Sinatra, has the nice Jewish guy from Long Island singing fifteen Sinatra hits ("One For My Baby," ""Summer Wind," "Luck Be A Lady," "The Lady Is A Tramp"... you know the rest.), it is not a celebrity impersonation show. It's actually a very warm, enjoyable presentation of his lifelong obsession with the man who many would consider to be definitive male interpreter of American popular music.
Through photo slides and humorous patter, Hoffman tells the story of a boy who lost his father at an early age and was raised by his mom and a trio of professional musician uncles and eventually a step-father. But the biggest male influence in his life was someone he would meet only briefly, as an adult. It was through Sinatra's voice and the songs he recorded that Hoffman found a role model for being a man. As a boy he copied the crooner's singing style and discovered his own confidence by emulating his role model.
Joined on stage by music director Alex Nelson at piano (there are also recorded big band arrangements), Hoffman sings with Sinatra's phrasing and diction but is always his own likeable self on stage; a guy in a tuxedo who found a popular artist he can identify with, who gave him comfort and inspiration throughout his life.
And that's the universal appeal of My Sinatra. It's about how celebrities - the ones who really touch us - can be major influences in our lives. So even if your own personal obsession is with someone named Barbra or Judy or Michael, there's something to relate to in Hoffman's story.
One of my favorite aspects of the neo-burlesque movement, which has been around for so long that they may as well drop the "neo," is the tongue-in-cheek way in which crassness and vulgarity is often portrayed as a commentary on crassness and vulgarity. That seems to be the attitude behind The Naked Truth, the new burlesque game show at The Triad. Or maybe it's just another gimmick to kick back with while enjoying drinks and watching attractive men and women strip. Either way works for me.
Co-producer Jonny Porkpie, known as the Burlesque Mayor of New York (He actually did run for the city's highest office once; mostly as a protest against the candidacy of The Naked Cowboy, whose politics, he claimed, was not truly representative of New York's Naked community.), serves as the wise-cracking host. His clever quips are often one-upped by the show's unseen announcer, Scott Rayow.
The night I attended, the burlesque end of evening included some of the more popular names in Gotham's burley scene. Jo "Boobs" Weldon, who runs the New York School of Burlesque (where many local performers go to learn their craft), performed a novelty act where her lovely curves were topped by an enormous Godzilla head as she menaced stage kittens Buxom Bunny and Satira Sin while shedding her extra layers. Tigger, a major name in boylesque, performed a wild act as The Traumatized Clown, hesitantly removing the colorful garb covering his well-defined chest while asking the musical question, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?"
More traditional strip teases out of evening gowns were elegantly (and a bit bawdily) offered by Tansy and The Maine Attraction. The previously mentioned kittens performed a cute double act where each tried upstaging the other and even Porkpie joined in the flesh exposing with his sardonically macho routine.
But The Naked Truth, as explained by our host, was created to discover, "What's behind the behinds." After each of the four guests' performances, Porkpie wanders into the house to find appropriately enthused and/or drunk audience members to answer a very personal multiple choice question about the people we've all just seen twirling their tassels. (How many times a day do they like to have sex?, What is the most unusual place where they've had sex?...) Four correct responders get to win valuable sexually oriented prizes by being victorious in competitions like an erotic version of password and a condom-applying race. It's all very silly and a lot of good-natured fun.
The Naked Truth is co-produced by Gary Beeber, who also brings some of New York's best burlesque talent to The Triad with Gotham Burlesque; next seen on June 2nd, headlined by Danger Dame Veronica Varlow and featuring two of my favorite burlesque vocalists, Shelly Watson and Broadway Brassy.
Photo of Jo Weldon and Jonny Porkpie by Don Spiro.