Gracie Lee Brown
Say Goodnight, Gracie
The Duplex, NYC, March 7, 2017
Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes
Parody song cabarets most often edge towards the tedious and their stars frequently find the material more humorous than the audience does. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but if I seem wary of the genre, it comes from years of witnessing either the obvious being skewered or comedy so esoteric, you find yourself consistently missing the joke.
On paper, Gracie Lee Brown appears to be a prime candidate for the former: a uniquely attractive musical theater leading lady who’s also a Millennial. A cynic might conjecture that she’d be the kind to serve up hackneyed and humdrum humor that we’ve seen time and time before. What could she possibly know about wit and wisecracks?
From this showing, Brown proves that she, indeed, has an uncharacteristic handle on comedy and a zany point of view. From a six-song medley of re-worded songs from Les Misérables (Claude-Michel Schonberg/Alain Boublil/Herbert Kretzmer) that detailed her close relationships with gay men (including a fabulous “Master of the Gays”) to a sly and slightly creepy ode to her musical theater crush, Gavin Creel, using “Waving Through a Window” (Benj Pasek/Justin Paul), Brown elicits smiles and hearty chuckles throughout.
She’s a funny girl alright, but she comes most alive in a series of vulnerable, pop-tinged selections, including a self-written “Brick by Brick” (along with MD Thomas Hodges) as well as “Can We Work It Out” (Sophie Payton). Keeping earnest and ditching the preoccupation with getting laughs, Brown’s eyes reveal it all: disappointment, heartbreak and hope.
It’s in these moments you hope that, going forward, Brown will employ a director to mold her material and highlight a clearer picture of just who she is. Yes, she’s multifaceted, but a stronger arc to a show like this would make an audience never want to say goodnight to Gracie Lee Brown.