Saturday Night Liv by Sandy McKnight, Liv Cummins and Christina Dellea, with Andrew Joffe. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
Vaudeville may well be dead, by Variety is not. Most of the TV-Variety shows have disappeared, only to be replaced by "reality-tv" where the non-professionals play out their fantasies of being performers. Many of them are talented and sometimes these budding singers, comedians, dancers are hampered by bad material, a lack of adequate rehearsal or the much-need input from directors, choreographers, arrangers, critics.
With the local Variety show, Saturday Night Liv, the problem may well be one of just not reaching far enough. The company is certainly talented. The material, however, is old-fashioned, a bit tired, a trifle too obvious. A combination of music, sketch-comedy and guest star turns, the choice of material performed by the "company" needs to be sharp, to the point, and most of all, original. In their current presentation at The Spencertown Academy, most of their bits are just moderately amusing and that only because we can hear what's coming and we enjoy being right there with them, even a beat ahead of them.
Three of the five sketches in this show are quasi-political; two of them are John F. Kennedy shots. The big joke in these two has to do with everyone plotting his demise in Dallas. Not funny. There are bad pokes at Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, and Jackie. What works best in these two sketches are the dialect jokes, JFK's lower-class Boston accent. The third political piece, set in the future, has Dick Cheney in Space and the puns run rampant in this piece, giving us the best comedy in the political arena: "Ronald Ray-Gun" for example. But the ultimate outcome of these three pieces is poor taste does not exactly make for high comedy. Just the reverse.
The best comedy comes at the top of the second act in a funeral parlor sketch by Andrew Joffe, entitled "Russ Madison, Funeral Director." What can go wrong here, does. And it's funny. It doesn't have an ending yet, but it's funny. The people in the sketch are amusing and the situation allows them to play parts that grab us by the funny-bone and make us laugh. Prudence Theriault is at her best here as the grieving widow. John Wallace is a hoot as her dead husband's accountant who bought the funeral with a discount coupon to save her more of her inheritance. Tony Carrano is hilarious as Madison and Joffe plays an Irish priest who can't get through one ceremony without starting another one.
The musical selections allow Christina Dellea to sing beautifully and Liv Cummins to harmonize in the best way possible. The band, led by Sandy McKnight plays well throughout the show and the two specialty acts are, well, less than special, but still diverting. Tom Raider as John Lennon brings back some favorite Beatles tunes and Pat Ferri, Physical Comic gives the performer a chance to dazzle with his multiple character Chinese film parody piece. Dr. Joel Goldstein, back from Nashville, sang a tuneful tribute to the Roe-Jan Valley.
At just under two hours this show is about twenty minutes too long. Developing the kind of material that Liv Cummins is presenting is a challenge, and I think these talented people can definitely do better. When they're good, they're very good. When they're not, it's just disappointing.
The show plays again next weekend, May 28, May 31 and June 2 at the Spencertown Academy. Contact the producers, CAT, for tickets at 518-329-5484.