Charlotte Patton

July 5, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

Charlotte PattonThe title of Charlotte Patton’s Metropolitan Room show, “Celebrating Men (Bless Their Hearts),” captures the tone of the evening perfectly. Patton’s program takes a partly bemused but mostly amused look at the male animal. There are no songs about how the big lugs always leave the toilet seats up, but there might well have been. In Patton’s almost pre-feminist take (which seems to be at least partially tongue-in-cheek), the battle of the sexes is only a harmless game. The he-man will simply scoop up the she-gal and cart her off to the boudoir, where a chummy truce is immediately called.

The songs that Patton, director Karen Oberlin, and musical director Barry Levitt have collected for the show seldom consider the more dangerous salvos that can be launched during a love skirmish. Patton’s first number, the gently swinging “I Like Men” (Peggy Lee, Jack Marshall), is followed by Herbert Baker’s cutely seductive “I Love to Love.” Many of the subsequent songs are in the same breezy mode. They might have comprised the program of a posh Manhattan nightclub act in 1955.

Patton’s stage persona is that of a good-time gal—a woman who’s always game for a fling. Good naughty fun is on her agenda, as opposed to deeply felt passion. Her singing voice is sunny and likable—a perfectly fine instrument for the mildly jokey, occasionally racy repertoire. She can—and more than once does—turn a note into a throaty growl, suggesting the love call of a pussycat on the prowl.

The narrative glue that holds the show together is a drinking game Patton plays with her audience. At intervals, her listeners are encouraged to raise a glass as she celebrates a man with some particular trait or other. Included are such specimens as the “overachiever,” the “man who just can’t seem to commit,” and the “guy who’s only too happy to help you play hooky.” Sometimes Patton adds spoken commentary within a song, while her musicians provide an underscore. She does this, for instance, on Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields’s “I Must Have That Man,” which is used to toast the male who swings both ways. (Without her set-up and this spoken interlude, by the way, the song would have no bisexual connotations whatsoever.)

If a sort of sameness creeps into the show at points, it is alleviated somewhat by the robust contributions of Levitt on piano and Tom Hubbard on bass. They are especially exuberant on George Gershwin and Buddy DeSylva’s “Do It Again.”

One standout number is “(Thursday) Here’s Why I Did Not Go to Work Today” (Harry Nilsson, Danny Kortchmar), a song extolling the sin of sloth (and, by Patton’s implication, its accompanying lazy romantic dalliances). She sits beside the piano as she sings the number. Her voice sounds deeper, fuller, and bluesier than in the other selections.

Her best turn, though, comes near the end of the program, when she performs Sondheim’s torchy “Losing My Mind” from Follies. This song provides some welcome emotional complexity, and Patton’s understated, engaged performance seems—fleetingly—to show the darker aspects of her party-girl character’s psyche. She sings the last line of the song a cappella, creating an effective moment of naked vulnerability.

Another review on this site—of a 2012 Charlotte Patton show—speaks glowingly of her acting abilities. It may be the almost monochromatic comic tone of this show that finds her keeping some of these talents under wraps. I hope that in future shows, she will again look for opportunities to highlight her more serious side. She doesn’t have to un-become her cheery, celebratory self—only remember that every silver lining has a dark cloud attached.

“Celebrating Men (Bless Their Hearts)”
Metropolitan Room  –  May 28, June 29, July 31, August 20

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. His features and reviews have appeared in such publications as American Theatre and Back Stage and on BistroAwards.com. As a dramaturg he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. His stage adaptation of Henry James's novel The Tragic Muse was part of the Gilded Stage Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse in January 2014.

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