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A CurtainUp Review
Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-Tacular
Bereft by the loss, Mrs. Smith, who admits she "swore off the stage years ago" has now returned to the road in search of Carlyle with a very unique cabaret act prompted only by her expressed desire to find her whiskered partner.
Hanbury makes no attempt to be gorgeous in the style of many drag performers. A nice touch. Mrs. Smith is, in fact, rather matronly. Her often ungainly movements are apparently well-calculated to betray her as poignantly self-deluding, as is her unflattering wig that suggests a dated if not quite Victorian mind-set. Hanbury, however, wears some stunning gowns (no credit given.)
Mrs. Smith funnily extols the virtues and capabilities of Carlyle whom we get to see in flash-back as a very enthusiastic hand puppet in various stages of learning the biz. Her impassioned narrative veers toward the inane, but so be it. Our motor-mouthed diva's brittle asides and batty digressions also provide amusing occasions for some audience-friendly participation. A filmed segment of her youth in Boston and upstate New York elicit guffaws. Funniest bit is her memory of getting stoned at Pat Nixon's birthday party. But it is Hanbury's patently deft and also partly daffy renditions of classic show tunes that are the real cat's meow.
She wows us with her intense interpretations of some of the greatest hits from the musical theater song book. They include such classics as "Cabaret," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "One Night in Bangkok," "Cabaret," and "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!" Often embracing the style of some of the most adored divas of song, she puts her distinct signature on "Ladies Who Lunch" and "Don't Rain On My Parade," and "The Cat That Got Away." (you know who.)
The determined, desperate, and certainly impassioned Mrs. Smith, however, has only one thing on her mind. . . to find Carlyle and have the audience help her. We do. Director Andrew Rasmussen has provided the kind of staging that makes this very small show look big and bright. Even more glow comes from the two terrific all-singing, all-dancing "Broadway Boys" — Brandon Haagenson and Ken Lear — who she says she "stole from Bernadette Peters." They robustly accompany Mrs. Smith as she searches the world playing all the local but always glittering hot-spots. The Broadway Boys are no second fiddles to their top banana as they not only impress as backup dancers but as musicians, especially and unexpectedly during this funny eighty-minute show's brief intermission.