This review of Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Ten Foot Rat Cabaret
Jillian Thomas - Master of Ceremonies
Produced by Gregory Levine & Rob Dub
Featuring Various Performers
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Ten Foot Rat Cabaret is an entertaining and worthwhile experience for anyone interested in a taste of the New York Cabaret Scene. In a small black-box theater on St. Mark's Place, this variety show has been running for four years now. As far as cabarets go, this extravaganza features older, experienced performers as well as newcomers. With a rotating roster combining the classic single singer, comedy, and burlesque routines from month to month, there is an opportunity to immerse yourself in New York Culture and get an idea of what types of shows might interest you. Additionally, you may see one or more of these performers returning, and perhaps also get a surprise visit by Neil Diamond - if only. The following six performers were featured at the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret on August 2nd: She She Dance, Kevin Michael Smith, Gregor of Berlin, Galatea Stone, Shayna Bliss and the JJs, and artist-in-residence Bill Chambers as Neil Diamond. The comedian, Jillian Thomas, was the Master of Ceremonies. I am told the name Ten Foot Rat Cabaret was inspired "by those giant inflatable union-local on-strike Rat balloons seen throughout New York City and, of course, our durable hometown critters themselves."
She She Dance opened and closed the night. Introduced by Jillian Thomas as one of their returning performers, she opened us up with a bang. Blues singer She She Dance, a pseudonym for Azusa Dance, has a strong voice, a positive attitude, and solid dance moves. Putting those together in the intimate, grungy atmosphere at Under St. Mark's Theater was like putting an energizer bunny into your living room if your living room looked and smelled like a basement with a bar. She sang Dancing In The Street and Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog with the verve of a Red Bull. At times, her deep voice was a little scratchy, but she really packed a lot of power into each line which made for a good opening.
Kevin Michael Smith was next up. An Air Force Man, Kevin's jokes tended to revolve around his time as both a reserve and deployed member of the USAF in Afghanistan. Some of the references that might have drawn a few cheers from a different crowd didn't get the same reaction from this Lower East Side audience. Still, he earned a few good laughs and was able to adjust his routine to the audience as he went including the gem that he probably set the record for "most condoms on (him) at one time while having unprotected sex." He performs a weekly show, Polished Comedy, at Beauty Bar in Manhattan.
He was followed by Gregor of Berlin (Gregory Levine) who was "contractually obligated" to appear. First, he pontificated on the trials of being relegated to a lower status of a comedian by his agent who wanted him to hone his craft. It was a clever sequence of self-effacing jokes which appeared within grander statements. He would remark on his frustrations on being sent to rooms with comedians who actually needed the help as if he was unaware that his comedy wasn't quite up to snuff. One of these destinations was Disney World where Gregor entertained children. With a stalwart set of stout anti-jokes, Gregor was able to deliver jokes in the form of advice and mockery of American children. He'll be at 54 Below on September 8th. He also hosts and co-directs Guilty Pleasures Cabaret.
Gregor also got the best job of the night according to him, introducing the burlesque dancer, Galatea Stone. Galatea strutted in dressed in blue with a feathery turquoise scarf that draped to the floor on what looked like 9-inch heels. Somewhere 7 or above at least. Talent. She danced for the song Sex & Candy by Marcy Playground, gradually pulling articles of clothing off and enticing the crowd to follow her hand gestures. It seemed like she would bare it all only to reveal a pair of stickers covering up her nipples. If you are interested, she'll be at Legion in Brooklyn for her monthly show, We Are Legion, at 8 p.m. on August 9th.
Shayna Bliss followed Galatea and disarmed the crowd with her voice rather than her legs although she did dance a little to the music as well. Accompanied by the JJs, a pair of brothers on the drums and piano, she sang Patsy Cline's Strange and The Beatles' The Fool On The Hill. She brought a lot of emotion to her performance which struck me as she seemed to pour her soul into her music. She wasn't quite able to coax the same volume out of the PA system that She She Dance did, but she obviously dug deep. An enticing performer, I look forward to seeing her again.
Neil Diamond came last. The impersonation portrayed an astute parody of the pop-culture giant, but I must confess to having never seen Neil Diamond live. A crowd more familiar with the hallmarks of a Diamond performance might have gotten more out of the solid Bill Chambers' performance. Still, his jokes about weed and old New York hit a few members in the audience, and his singing of one of Neil Diamond's classics while gyrating violently was a nice touch.
Very fun stuff. That's what you can expect from Ten Foot Rat Cabaret. Tickets for $10.00 can be purchased online at http://www.tenfootrat.com/blog/wordpress/ or at the door. Starting next month, the show will be on a Saturday night. The next show will mark their 4th Anniversary!
FALSE FACT: It has always been hard for performers to find audiences and fill theater seats. One day, a struggling comic saw one of those Ten Foot Rats and observed 15-20 union members just standing around talking to one another and holding signs. He thought to himself - there's an audience! He stopped off and did a 10-minute set that was well-appreciated. The next day, he brought more of his friends down to perform and entertain. As time went on, the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret moved from site to site earning for itself some press and a very positive reputation. Eventually, the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret moved indoors, got a following, and continues to entertain audiences who would otherwise just be standing around somewhere talking to one another.