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A CurtainUp Review
From Barbara Cook's "Till There Was You" to Christine Ebersole's "The Revolutionary Costume for Today," Palmer's impersonations are perfect in both voice and gesture. He has mastered all of Garland's wonderful ticks, Merman's brass and Minnelli's pizzazz. He is aided by an incredible wardrobe, a huge assortment of wigs and a dresser, hidden behind a screen.
Jessa Orr has designed a set that allows for all those quick changes and makes them part of the story: a mini-proscenium arch stands between a backstage dressing room and the pianist (Curtis Jerome, who is also the musical director). As a result there is no break in Palmer's patter, which introduces the songs and the stars.
But what makes this show so effective is Palmer's personal story, and how he shares it with the audience. He started performing as a child and has been treading the boards in musical theater with some of the biggest and brightest for much of his life. He relates not only of his experiences with these actors (there's a great story about flying false teeth), but also some of his earliest production efforts in his basement and his backyard.
For those who like interactive theater, there's a delightful game of "Name that Diva," featuring a song creates with the audience in the style of Mad Libs. Three lucky volunteers who perform as Palmer's backup when he sings Carol Channing's "Hello Dolly!" At the performance I attended, two of the volunteers got into friendly competition over control of center stage.
The "You've No Business in Show Business" sequence which has non-singers like Dr. Ruth and Judge Judy, among others, rendering "Send in the Clowns" in their own unique style is particularly hilarious. And Harvey Feinstein fans will be happy to learn that he is included as a fabulous diva.
Although the show is mostly designed for pure entertainment, there's also a quality of respect and awe in Palmer's performance. It's hard not to believe him when he says his real goal is to pass on the impressions and inspiration these women have left us.
The scope of Palmer's talents — his voice, his sincerity, his humor — is truly extraordinary. His knowledge is broad and deep. His performance is flawless. And he's even got great legs!