TASTiSKANK at The Green Room 42
On the 4th floor of Yotel on 42nd Street and 10th Avenue, you’ll find a modern space that functions not only as a reception hall and conference room, but also as a hopping cabaret space. The Green Room 42 features a diverse line up of acts including Broadway stars, jazz artists, and fabulous drag performers.
Tastiskank are the alter egos of Broadway singers Sarah Litzsinger (Beauty and the Beast, Amour) and Kate Reinders (Wicked, Something Rotten.) Together they had the room howling with laughter at their fabulously raunchy songs and hilariously off-color patter. Their opener, “Smoke & Mirrors,” set the tone, with the pair rapping about the subterfuge they’ve employed to get onstage - ‘...we may be old dogs but we got mad tricks,’ which included Spanx, pharmaceuticals, Botox, and pleas for the lighting man to ‘turn the lights down NOW!’ They even confided, ‘...we need new tits,’ and passed around a bucket labeled New Tit Fund.
Much of the material revolved, not unexpectedly, around the Skanks’ sexual misadventures. In “Mr. Softee,” we heard about a certain male problem they’ve encountered, as they sang ‘...are you on the Lexapro? ‘Cause that can make a boner go away.’ They revealed their propensity for stalking in “Like It or Not,” and in “I Heart Dirty Boys,” they sang ‘...you give me summer lovin’ in my Easy Bake Oven!’ Speaking of dirty boys, they mentioned that their doctor had told them to ‘stop sleeping with dirty dicks,’ which led into “The Gift,” a ballad about HPV that was very funny and just plain wrong!
One of the evening’s highlights was “The Sex Song,” a screamingly funny number about an unsatisfactory lover who ‘couldn’t ever find my clit, even if I drew a map to it!’ Later, the duo brought out their special guest, Matthew McConaughey...or rather a life sized cardboard cutout of the star, to whom they pledged their love in a fun, silly rap called “Matthew McConaughey Day. Next, to prove their hotness, they brought out a copy of the NY Post Sunday Supplement, where they had been named 2 of the 25 Sexiest New Yorkers! Musical director, Jon Spurney, reminded them the story ran 12 years ago, and Reinders chastised him, saying “Oh stop it, with your...math!” In “25 Sexiest New Yorkers,” they sang ‘we’re two sexy bitches, so where the fuck’s our fucking boyfriends?!’ Lamenting their man problems, they decided they should just move to Florida, pull a full-on Anna Nicole, and find rich old men to marry, and they showed a very funny commercial for a retirement community they plan on canvassing: The Village - ‘Where women can’t get pregnant and the men look like they are!’ They closed out the night with a song about a sexual partner in Italy, who finished the act, then asked immediately if he could call his mother. Her response: “Get Out of Me First!”
Now, basically, this is a one-joke show: they’re skanky! But the material is so varied and clever, that in Reinders’ and Litzsinger’s talented hands, the joke never got old, not for me, and certainly not for the rest of the crowd, who rewarded them with huge laughs and a loud, cheering standing ovation!
The next time they perform, get your skank on with Tastiskank!
For more information, check out the Tastiskank Facebook page, or follow them on Instagram @thetastiskank
Stearns Matthews Golden Ticket - at the Laurie Beechman Theater
When I first discovered cabaret, the art form itself was generally a much simpler affair - a singer, a piano, and about 12 songs.
Stearns Matthews’ show, Golden Ticket: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse is a lovely throwback to that time. Matthews stood onstage in front of a mic stand, accompanied only by the talented Warren Helms at the piano, and the simplicty of the presentation was a huge part of its appeal.
I first became aware of Stearns in 2008, as first runner up in the MetroStar Talent Challenge at the Metropolitan Room. Despite his youth, he won the audience with his charm, wit, and tremendous vocals. Since then, he’s appeared at Town Hall, Feinstein’s/54 Below, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, he’s won the 2015 Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording, and the 2015 MAC Award for Best Male Vocalist.
With Golden Ticket, Matthews treated us to a beautiful selection of songs by prolific British composer, Leslie Bricusse, whose work has been seen on Broadway (Jekyll & Hyde, The Roar of the Greasepaint-the Smell of the Crowd), television (Peter Pan), and films (Victor/Victoria, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). Matthews clearly respected the material, and his restrained physical and vocal style allowed the audience to appreciate Bricusse’s artistry.
Stearns opened with one of Bricusse’s best known show tunes, “Feelin’ Good,” from Roar of the Greasepaint, written with frequent collaborator, Anthony Newley. And while I like the powerful Nina Simone arrangement, I’ve heard too much of it lately, particularly in TV commercials. The version he gave us was the simple, pretty, slightly sad version from the show - refreshing and offset nicely when combined with the more upbeat “Gonna Build a Mountain,” from Stop the World-I Want to Get Off. Matthews’ glorious tenor was in fine form, with crystal clear phrasing and lovely tone.
I’m a big fan of Leslie Bricusse, but as much as I thought I knew, there were some surprises in store. “C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I,” from the 1986 version of Babes in Toyland, was new to me and adorably clever, with lyrics like ‘Cincy’s more than merely natty, she’s Ohio’s Maserati!‘ And as long as I’d known the theme to Goldfinger, I was somehow unaware that it had been penned by Mr. Bricusse!
Beyond surprises, however, Matthews sang some of my favorites: “You and Me,” from Victor/Victoria was a jaunty tribute to Stearns’ friendship with Helms, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” from everyone’s childhood favorite, Willy Wonka, had a sweet, bouncy, if slightly laid back feel, and “The Minister’s Cat,” from Scrooge: The Musical was a silly little ditty based on a Victorian parlor game, which Stearns enjoys, but his husband refuses to play.
The best moments came from heartfelt renditions of “If I Ruled the World,” from the musical Pickwick, done with a lovely touch of melancholy in his voice, “The Joker,” (Greasepaint), had a nice undercurrent of anger, and a beautiful “Crazy World,” (Victor/Victoria) done with no extraneous flourishes; just quiet ease.
If I had any negative critique, it would be that I wanted a bit more emotional variation throughout the evening - “Goldfinger” could’ve used more intensity, Stop the World’s “Once in a Lifetime” was beautifully sung, but a little detatched, emotionally, and “Look at That Face” (Greasepaint) held a missed opportunity for Stearns to change up the tone of the show a bit, and give us a little of Bricusse’s...and his own sly humor in the wicked second verse.
All that aside, though, the show closed on a hopeful note, with Greasepaint’s “Sweet Beginning” promising new and brighter things to come.
I enjoyed Golden Ticket - not just the music, but the show’s simple, old-school vibe. And there’s still a wealth of material from Bricusse, yet untapped - I’d love to hear what Stearns could do with some of the songs from the 1967 Rex Harrison film, Doctor Dolittle! With a winning performer like Stearns Matthews, and so many more songs to explore, perhaps there’ll be a follow up: Another Golden Ticket! If there is, I know I’ll be there to see it!
Golden Ticket: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse returns to the Laurie Beechman Theatre on Wed, April 4th at 7 PM. Go to www.westbankcafe.com or https://tinyurl/StearnsTix for info and tickets.