THE LEGENDS LIVE ON
Text & Photos by Sherri Rase
If you don't believe in legends, then believe in magic! This past Saturday, September 1, the Arts Project of Cherry Grove featured 15 beautiful Homecoming and former Homecoming Queens in Matt Baney's "Legends II - The Legends Continue" and while magic continues, new legends were born!
Baney's original brainchild "Legends - In Their Own Minds", was an unqualified success. Both "Legends" drew record audiences to the Community House in Cherry Grove and the 7pm and 10pm performances this past Saturday were both magnificent.
We were treated from the very beginning to the rare sight of 15 Homecoming Queens in one places. Beginning with Panzi in 1976 and 1977 through Angela Mercy, Ariel Sinclair, Charity, China, Cobra, CoCo, Donna Piranha, Ivanna Cocktail, Lola (this year's reigning Queen), Luisa Verde, Philomena, Sylvia Shapiro (nee Legs LeBohn), Queen Mother Timothea and the only Real Girl (RG) Queen to date, Joan Van Ness! These performers represent 16 years of service as Homecoming Queens alone, not to mention they myriad other ways they serve the community. You know about that already, so on to Saturday's performances!
Panzi & Philomena
Though often the numbers hailed from the canon of favorites for entertainers, each number got a new treatment. The oh-so-grand opening introduced each of the Homecoming Queens bearing a wig box with her year of service. Panzi had a quick turnaround since she was 1976 and 1977 both! Each of the Queens took her place in one of the most historic stage pictures to date. Then Matt Baney segued into what every girl needs - Ultra Clutch Hairspray!
Matt Baney was the MC for the first act and added colorful commentary to each performance. While not a Homecoming Queen, the lovely and talented composer and pianist Nina Bianchi played an original composition "Letting Go". Bittersweet but resolute, she brought us in to a less serious and very different type of entertainment.
Among the Island denizens, Bella and Peter B lead the parade of talent in a most amazing feat of acting, dancing and sound editing! Running the gamut from "Sunset Boulevard" to "Grease" and everything in between, we learn that Beauty or Beast is in the eye of the beholder. And it's great to see them both on stage in the Community House this year!
Next, Matt introduced Lola, who made abundantly clear exactly why she had "One Night Only", and when she sings "come on big baby", her reveal was - uh - very revealing! Usually dressed to the nines, this time Lola went to 8.9 months!
Begging us to "Treat Me Rough", Charity burned up the stage with her powerful Scorpio persona. In her introduction, it was mentioned that she was Miss Fire Island in 1968 - a precocious child star! Still hot today and all grown up, Charity's joie de vivre came through every pore as she told us exactly how she likes it.
Donna Piranha's surprise Hula-Hooping to "Band of Gold" was a visual experience for the audience! You could almost hear the wheels turning as people thought "how long did she practice to do that", "where is *my* Hula Hoop", "what kind of paint do you use to make a Hula Hoop gold" and "how much longer can she keep that going"? She did take an oxygen break part way through, but it was just for dramatic effect - her shape and in-shape - ooh la la!
Donna & Ivana
Cherry Grove's own gorgeous redhead, Ivana Cocktail, channeled Wynona, another well-upholstered redhead, singing "Nothing's Gonna Break Me Down", as she sang to her former crown. A beautiful large size Ann-Margaret, we know now why they call them "hot pants" - wow!
Sylvia Shapiro's "Is There Anyone Here for Love" featured her brilliant mind for choosing the right song and her dynamic trio of Joanne Tavis, Bobbie Green and Doreen Rallo each showing their dedication to physical culture that sadly did not include romance. While they resisted Sylvia's wiles, they are made of sterner stuff than most!
Joan & Sylvia
Philomena continues to chart the breadth of her range with this arch nod to Edith Piaf's Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien ("No, I regret nothing"). The hilarious "I Regret Everything" was originally written for Pattie LuPone's knockout of a one woman show. This knockout send up of French performance (down to faux grooming and faux accent) was a real crowd pleaser, especially for those who experienced the hands-on performer interaction!
Ariel, "I Who Have Nothing" and apparently no hairdresser, no stylist, no costumer, wowed the crowd with her rendition of the classic song about a woman scorned. Opening her number with a realistic sprawling fall across the stage, Ariel's got a put-a-quarter-in-the-box-and-vibrate-the-bed intensity that makes you wonder why any man would choose a less energetic mate. Serenity is over-rated!
Last year's Queen, CoCo, also made a big splash. Her rendition of "Son of a Preacher Man" heated up the crowd - not a dry seat in the house! Not least of which for the Son, played with great relish by Arthur Cohen. The combination of innocence and forbidden knowledge, CoCo's milieu, was intoxicating.
Luisa ended the first act with her twisted take on KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and Cherry Tree" with her Sheep Date. Actually, she had four sheep dates - three white (".you're not the one for me") and her Black Sheep beau whom she led off as the curtain came down. Those flockin' sheep were the talented Gary Greene, Doreen Rallo and Joanne Tavis, while Baa-Baa Black was the expression-gifted Bobbie Green. Oh those eyes!
The second act began with Bella stepping in for Matt, who had a "Costume Malfunction"....hmmmm, the mind reels, but the show must go on! Bella's expertise makes her the right choice to keep the party going!
Panzi kicked open the second act with her Margo Channing and "Who's That Girl" showing us she's still got what it takes, in abundance! Ably assisted by Cobra holding an early black and white photo of Panzi and China with an early color photo, our high stepping first Queen is still making things happen!
Timothea, Cobra & Luisa
Timothea, our Queen Mum, made an impassioned plea that echoes the sentiments of many - support our community in Cherry Grove and all it has to offer, from Garden Club and Island Rep, relative newcomers, as well as the Arts Project, Fire Fighters, Dunes Fund, Doctors Fund and all of the flowers in the garden of diversity we make our home each Summer. Kudos, Queen Mum!
From the Isle of Fire, to the Isle of Manhattan, Luisa and Lola told us their West-End story, played out in Luisa's dress shop on stage. Beautiful minimalist set (go Gary!) and beautifully costumed (go grrls!) and well edited sound (go D'Elvis!), this showstopper brought the house down! Between Lola mourning her dead love while checking her look in her hand mirror (fickle, fickle female!) while Luisa checked out her lipstick while polishing sharp, sharp instruments, we always get more than we expect!
Ivanna, Donna and Ariel took us to Seventh Heaven with their spirited rendition of "Camille, Colette, Fifi". Very sci sci la la Bowery Girls who showed us some things only take a moment, then you fix your lipstick and go on (Fifi must be a veteran of La Meat Racque).
CoCo and Cobra set off a "Sex Bomb" immediately after that featuring lustrous costumes, luscious textures from feathers to sequins to who does CoCo's hair?!? Super sexy ending, super fly! Cobra in hot pink with feathers, need we say more?
Charity & Ariel
Appropriately fake "Bosom Buddies", Charity and Sylvia of the fake bosoms showed their true colors in their duet. Their lip-synch was picture-perfect, but not more so than their spot-on gestures. Top to bottom, beginning to end, these girls are professional all the way! Their business on stage is flawless!
Angela Mercy & China
The wonderfully talented Angela Mercy gave us fashion tips for the "Revolutionary Costume for Today", replete with a magnificent magnifying glass and an appropriately tatty bit of newspaper. We learned exactly how large Angela Mercy's eyes and lips are, even in the back of the house! A beautiful rendition from a talented performer!
From early 21st Century Cherry Grove to late 20th Century Eastern Seaboard, Scarlett Oh!, that rabble rousing, uncompromising, enterprising, right on Joan Van Ness showed the boys how it's done! It take RGs sometimes (Real Girls, that is) to really make a statement about what being female means and what it takes is some Ultra Clutch Hairspray for your 'do and "Good Morning Baltimore" to your neighbors - especially the Flasher next door, our own friendly Arthur Cohen on another cross over! Appropriately attired in a rain coat and fedora, I won't ask what he was using to wave, will you?
China did something amazing - the Homecoming Queen with the most famous smile in Cherry Grove wrapped those lips around "Ms. Celie's Blues" in a fabulous display of virtuosity - some great things come from China! And China's sense of color is nonpareil - she was gorgeous in spring green!
Finally, Nina Bianchi returned - our end is our beginning, as she played a beautiful composition that lead to - what else? - "Applause"! Matt Baney's transformation from handsome man to handsome woman complete, s/he lead her cast in the explanation of why we do what we do.
LONG LIVE THE LADIES
Backstage, the tender ministrations of Urban Sprawl and Jeffrey Wallach were apparent in the gorgeously turned out Queens, and Harold Seeley's hand was evident in the sumptuous set. Also, in addition to Arthur on curtains, Michael Romanelli and Norman Cherubino on follow spots and Alison Brackman and Craig Hollywood as booth maestri, Martha Pitkin was the best Stage Manager a director could ever have (per Matt) leading one of the best Stage Crews (per Matt) consisting of stalwart Lorie Bradshaw, handsome and talented Jimmy "Taffeta Darling" and yours truly. Making sure all had wet whistles and knew where they would sit, the lovely Hoffas - Gimmi and Marianne. Tickets by Jane Haber. The show played to two sold-out houses this past Saturday. If you're really nice to me, you can watch my video....!