Club Review: Therese Lee’s “Riding the Bus to the Red Carpet”

May 31, 2022 | By

Singer/actress Therese Lee had her first taste of those “fifteen minutes of fame” interviewing stars whose fame has lasted longer than Warhol predicted. Her story of getting there, and what happened when she did, form the basis for her highly entertaining new show, Riding the Bus to the Red Carpet, smartly and sensitively directed by Jeff Harnar and wonderfully well played by music director/arranger Doug Peck. 

Therese Lee (Photo: David Goodman)

The perfectly chosen opening number, “If You Knew My Story” (Stephen Martin, Edie Brickell from Bright Star) might have been better served without being interrupted by patter, allowing the audience to better get to know the singer before we met the storyteller. It felt like the story started with a jolt, almost mid-sentence as if she has so much to tell that she couldn’t waste a second. It had a brittle, rushed air that, fortunately, dissolved when she went back to singing, where she was relaxed and warmly conversational. 

Lee’s singing was fine throughout and she relaxed into her storytelling as the night progressed. However, “On the Other Side of the Tracks” (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Lee from Little Me) had the same jarring interpolation of patter but was rescued by the dizzying display of dropped names that Lee and her director added to the lyrics. Movie stars appeared in the next number as well, but “Just Go to the Movies” (Jerry Herman from A Day in Hollywood/A night in the Ukraine) with its own list of names, felt redundant after the previous song and that weakened her declaration of affection for old movies. This song led to a great story about her interview experience with a reunion of the surviving Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz,  followed by a thoughtful, touching “If I Only Had a Brain” (Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg).  David Yazbek’s “What’s Gonna Happen” from Tootsie fit the narrative of the show perfectly but the cold intensity of her delivery killed some of the humor.  

A wonderful story about her interview with Carol Channing included a terrific impression of that voice (both speaking and singing) and highlighted a sparkling “Got a Lot of Living to Do” (Charles Strouse, Lee Adams from Bye, Bye Birdie) Then came a beautifully delivered “All of My Laughter” (Albert Hague, Allan Sherman from Fig Leaves are Falling). Meeting George Clooney inspired a delightful, schoolgirl crush version of “He Touched Me” (Milton Schafer, Ira Levin from Drat the Cat!).  Then the show took a daringly dark turn recalling a traumatic moment of abuse in her past that brought a stark power to Lady Gaga’s “’Til It Happens to You” (Stefani Germanotta, Dianne Warren), but I wish Lee has let the song do more of the heavy emotional lifting and not interrupted it with patter. Her performance of it was electrifying, nonetheless. 

“One Step” (David Shire, Richard Maltby, Jr. from Starting Here, Starting Now) proved an upbeat, hopeful windup to a most delightful show filled with good songs and fascinating stories and a winning performance.  After her time on the red carpet, Therese Lee deserves at the very least a second fifteen minutes of fame in the world of cabaret.

*** 

Presented at The Triad on April 23; returns to New York to Don’t Tell Mama on September 17.

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary, Reviews

About the Author ()

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”

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