Review: Red Hot Mama: A Sophie Tucker Cabaret (5 Stars)

Red Hot Mama: A Sophie Tucker Cabaret (Sisterscene)

Saskatoon Fringe Festival

5 Stars


For decades, Sophie Tucker was a musical institution.  Her double-entendre jokes, bawdy songs and larger-than-life presence pervaded popular culture from the 1920s all the way into the 1960s.  Sophie Tucker was a ‘personality’, and Melanie Gall’s impressive performance in Red Hot Mama, Erik de Waal’s Sophie Tucker-inspired cabaret, is infused with personality enough to please even the great Ms. Tucker.

From the first onstage visual – Gall standing behind a vintage microphone with a flowing red-and-gold gown and befeathered hat – she is Sophie.  Not the Sophie of later years, who came across almost as a caricature of herself, but Sophie of Tin Pan Alley fame.  The Sophie who tossed off dirty jokes and whose outward devil-may-care attitude often seemed at odds with her Orthodox Jewish upbringing.

Gall’s acting is impressive, and her voice is enthralling.  The jokes are charmingly smutty, and the songs are well-chosen: An effective mix of well-known pieces (Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and Tucker’s signature tune, “Some of These Days”), and unknown gems (A ballad about a randy canary).  Gall’s characterization of Sophie is impressive, and the high note at the end of ‘Yiddishe Mama’ – that alone is worth the price of admission.

A nostalgic masterpiece.

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