Kiki & Herb: Alive From Broadway
Created and executed by Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman
Scenic Design, Scott Pask; Costume Design, Marc Happel; Lighting Design, Jeff Croiter; Sound Design, Brett Jarvis; Stage Manager, Daniel Kells
Performances through June 30, 2007
Stanford Calderwood Pavilion @ Boston Center for the Arts
Box Office 617-266-0800 or www.huntingtontheatre.org, www.bostontheatrescene.org
Whenever I see a show described as "hilarious" or "hysterical," I think it's a set-up. If it turns out to be really funny, then there's not much more that I can say about it. On the other hand, if I don't describe it with the aforementioned h-words, what's wrong with me? Well, here goes, but the only h-words I'm using are Huntington and Herb.
Named as one of the Top Ten Broadway performances by The New York Times, Kiki & Herb: Alive On Broadway was a smash-hit success at the Helen Hayes Theatre and nominated for a 2006 Tony Award in the Special Theatrical Event category, but lost to Jay Johnson: The Two and Only. In one of several anti-Bush remarks, Kiki says that people seem to like to vote for dummies a lot lately. Yet, in providing their back-story, she informs us that both she and Herb are retards, while acknowledging how politically incorrect that sounds.
Politically Incorrect could be one of many alternate titles for this show if Bill Maher had not already put it to good use. In addition to calling themselves retards, Kiki informs us that Herb is also a Jewish homosexual and refers to him as a "Jew-tard." She goes on to make impolitic comments about her surviving children, the birth of Christ, tragedies at Christmas time, and the death of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Labeled as a "boozy chanteuse," Miss DuRane consumes mass quantities of alcohol (of the faux variety, one presumes) during her performance, which both loosens and sharpens her tongue. Look up the word ribald in the dictionary and she is surely pictured there.
This is a cabaret act and as such allows for off the cuff banter between the star and the audience, as well as between Kiki and Herb. However, she does go on - and on - and on. In addition to describing the ups and downs of their long career, she shares her dogma and views on life. For his part, Herb doesn't say much, but plays some background accompaniment while Kiki speaks. But as each story rambled on its circuitous path to the point, I found myself wondering if she would ever sing.
This is not your mother's cabaret program. Perhaps I'm showing my generation, but of the fifteen songs on K&H's list, I only know two. The artists represented include Radiohead, Public Enemy, The Mountain Goats, and The Scissor Sisters. There is a personalized and touching rendition of "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg after Kiki tells about her estrangement from her daughter. Most of the songs are performed with passion and Herb's piano is played with great feeling. Unfortunately, there is little modulation in volume and fervor, so many of the songs are too loud. Herb pounds away thunderously, so Kiki has to belt like a rocker. When Herb adds his voice to the mix, it is more shouting than singing.
There is no dearth of energy from either of the performers and they are true to their characters throughout. Amply aided by their makeup and glitzy costumes, Bond and Mellman morph into Kiki and Herb. They have great chemistry and timing with each other on stage and the audience both eats up and feeds into their craziness. Although it started to become tiresome to me about an hour into the ninety-minute show, the crowd didn't want it to end and was rewarded with an encore. Kiki puts her own stamp on Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
The Huntington Theatre Company presents Kiki & Herb: Alive From Broadway in the Wimberly Theater in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts through the rest of this month. Decide for yourself - hysterical or hysteria?