Ken Haller: The Medicine Show

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Ken Haller

The Medicine Show

The Stage at KDHX, St. Louis, MO, April 8, 2017

Reviewed by Chuck Lavazzi for Cabaret Scenes

Ken Haller

Laughter, the old saying goes, is the best medicine. If so, The Medicine Show, the newest diadem in the crown of St. Louis cabaret star Ken Haller, was just what the doctor ordered. And Mr. Haller is a doctor, so he should know.

Sure, there were serious moments in this cabaret evening inspired by his long and distinguished career in pediatric medicine. That included a sensitive version of Jason Robert Brown’s “Someone to Fall Back On” and a truly moving rendition of “How Glory Goes” from Adam Guettel’s Floyd Collins. But, ultimately, The Medicine Show was about good cheer.

And that’s a good thing, given that contemporary American politics often leaves the more thoughtful citizen feeling (to continue the medical theme) like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis (a joke I stole from Tom Lehrer).

The comic tone was set at the very beginning as Haller (I’m dropping the “Doctor” from here on out, if we’re all OK with that) entered from the house wearing an obviously fake black wig and singing “Ken Haller’s Miracle Elixir” (formerly “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” from Sweeney Todd) with Musical Director/pianist Marty Fox playing Todd to his Toby. It was fast and funny and set an engaging tone for the rest of the evening. It also showed the strong rapport between Haller and Fox, who often added a second voice to the evening to complement his sterling pianism.

The show reached its emotional heart with a lovely medley of “Holding to the Ground” (Falsettos), “Home” (The Wiz), and that Muppet classic “The Rainbow Connection” that was all about home, hope, and holding fast to what counts in life. Through it all, Haller delivered the goods with that combination of theatrical smarts and vocal authority that has made him one of our town’s principal cabaret exports.

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Chuck Lavazzi

Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle. Chuck has been an actor, sound designer, and occasional director since roughly the Bronze Age. He has presented his cabaret show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, at the Missouri History Museum and the Kranzberg Center.