This review of Stripping In The Park With George: A Burlesque Tribute To Stephen Sondheim at The Kraine Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Stripping In The Park With George: A Burlesque Tribute To Stephen Sondheim
Presented by The Cyn Factory
Starring Miss Charles Stunning, Miss Mary Cyn, Sarah Tops & Dick Move
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
New York, New York 10003
Coming off the success of their Tennessee Williams tribute, Ass Menagerie, The Cyn Factory is back with their most ambitious project yet: an all singing, all stripping, homage to Stephen Sondheim. Stripping In The Park With George: A Burleque Tribute To Stephen Sondheim first opened on the road with two shows on June 6, 2015 in Washington D.C. at The Bier Baron Tavern. Now in New York City, it is presented as part of FRIGID New York's 2015 Winter Burlesque Blitz at The Kraine Theater.
The show opens with a parody of "Comedy Tonight" (from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum) where the cast promises Hangovers Tomorrow and Nudity Tonight! Rodgers & Hart fans are told "to get the fuck out" and we are warned in advance there will be no songs from Gypsy "because that was a musical about an actress who wanted to be a stripper while this show is about strippers who want to be actors."
Dick Move (a male on vocals & keyboard) and Miss Charles Stunning (a female on vocals) are the two strongest performers with the best vocal instruments but both had far too much hair for my taste; Dick, donned fake hair during his rendition of "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" (from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street) and Miss Charles exhibited unshaven underarm hair during the entire show. The cast, which also included Miss Mary Cyn and Sarah Tops, took on some challenging Sondheim songs such as "The Ladies Who Lunch" (from Company), "Epiphany" (from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street), "The Miller's Son" (from A Little Night Music), and "Being Alive" (from Company). The highlight of the evening was Dick Move and Sarah Tops singing "Agony" (from Into The Woods). Johnny Caligula made a guest appearance and handled the raffle.
The irony of this musical burlesque performance show is that there was no nudity in it and an extreme overuse of pasties, even when it came to male nipples. Since this was an "artistic presentation," full nudity is permitted in accordance with the law. Nipples and private parts no longer need to be completely covered for actors to avoid arrest for indecent exposure. Instead of celebrating this fact in substantively themed burlesque skits, these "neo-burlesque" performers avoided complete nudity, overused not-particularly-attractive pasties, and, to my knowledge, continue to use "stage names" (intentionally not revealing their real names in the program) in order to avoid the shame and stigma they may perceive is still associated with being a burlesque performer. In the neo-burlesque revival scene, I would like each performance judged by the substance and uniqueness of the act, without throwback tributes to pasties and seductive shoulder teases. This is a new day in America and the naked body should be celebrated without hesitation or limitation. It almost rises to the level of being a political statement in this context.
The camaraderie of the cast and their enjoyment of performing this show was quite evident. Not every song was sung perfectly on key and an error or two was occasionally detected on the keyboard but in the end, it didn't matter. These entertainers kept a smile on my face and worked very hard to make each number relevant and interesting. They succeeded in bringing joy to their audience, which is more than anyone could ask for during this cold holiday season. There are worse ways to spend $20.00!