Red Hot Mama: A Sophie Tucker Cabaret (Sisterscene)
Saskatoon Fringe Festival
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.