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Stage Pages March, 2004


Review by Sherry Braun


“Best of the Broads:  A Sentimental Journey” Delivers Six New Stars

Journey Productions at The Duplex
Directed by Teresa Fischer
Musical Direction by Brennan Johnson
Choreography by JoJo Bengel, Jenny Greeman and Teresa Fischer

 The cabaret world is best represented by acts which are charismatic, musically adept, and often humorous and bone-chilling at the same time.  “Best of the Broads:  A Sentimental Journey” is all of that and then some!  The program is made up of the best-loved songs of two acts (and alternating casts), “Three Broads Singin’ To Beat the Blues” and “Three Broads Singin’ Naughty, Singin’ Nice.”  These shows have had successful romps at multiple venues around New York, including Sage Theatre (where the first show originated), Spotlight On Festivals (where Frank Calo nurtured it), and at the American Theatre Wing Outreach Program (where the act turned pro).

These five ladies and one man at the piano are Broadway bound.  I most recently caught them at The Duplex, where the best of their technique sings forth and where the staging, patter and physical antics play on stock types -- such as the young, the old, the comic, the Broadway belt, the torch song, the love song.  Perhaps this group has never been in better shape than now.

 The entire company, accompanied by Brennan Johnson, begins the evening with “Sentimental Journey” and a Blues medley.  The arrangements are strong from the start, with the cast moving into five-part harmonies.

 The first full solo is by Bonita Hanson, “Dieter’s Prayer.”  Very funny and easy to relate to in this Atkins Diet age.  Later, Bonita brought the house down with “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.”  Picture a perfectly groomed mother, or a respectable school principal, surprising you with such a sinister deed!

In genuflection to the first incarnation of the Broads (before they turned naughty), all of them sing the “Good Girl Medley” and an “Enchanted Evenings” section.  More scrumptious assurance in the musicianship.  The harmonies in the ensemble are met with star turns by all of the broads, in turns during solos.       

 Teresa Fischer is sensational with “It’s Oh So Quiet.”  Betty Ann Hunt is simply terrific with “Could I Leave You?” and shows her best belt with ”Everybody’s Girl,” which is raunchy and hysterical.  JoJo Bengel wins us with “Still Hurting” and the hysterical lesbian homage “An Old Fashioned Love Story”.  And Jenny Greeman starts subtly and builds into a technically proficient climax in “If You Hadn’t But You Did.”

Then, of course, there is the homage to the naughty and nice girls, the “Doo-Wop Damsels,” brandishing leather jackets and imaginary motorcycles.  Gradually, the concise choreography and attention to detail becomes apparent with “Always a Bridesmaid.”   This production is very polished. (Even sentimental props, such as bridal bouquet, letters and photographs, create a strong atmosphere.)

The “You Don’t Own Me” trio is fabulous with Jenny, JoJo and Teresa.  The comedy in this act is at its best because of the fierce commitment to the feelings.  What a joy to see the ladies get into it with their bodies.  You can also see an example of this with the whole cast in “Watching All the Pretty Young Men.”  Director Fischer maximizes having five women when she allows for the crescendo at the same time the two broads at the piano join the other three at the chairs downstage. 

  “Honeypot” is rendered as a scene between a rigid therapist (Greeman) and a singer prone to metaphor and poetry to describe her sexual relationship.  Fischer not only shows off her incredible singing voice but does a pretty fine bit of acting as well.  She relishes this infectious section, and so does the audience. 

 Musical Director Brennan Johnson surprises us sometimes as the girls try to get him involved, or as he shouts out a lyric or a response.  He is just as pretty as he is talented, with his poker face!

 “Best of the Broads:  A Sentimental Journey” needs to be playing every night of the week, healing and charming audiences.  It is perfect cabaret. These are sexy ladies, and a handsome pianist, who make their touching, ribald and funny entertainment enchantingly musical.  Catch the act at The Duplex, (212) 255-5438.  Or inquire by calling Journey Productions, (212) 249-1992.