Leanne Borghesi: What Is This Swing Called L-O-V-E?

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Leanne Borghesi

What Is This Swing Called L-O-V-E?

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, August 3, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Leanne Borghesi

Leanne Borghesi belongs to a rare group of cabaret performers able to successfully create and inhabit fully realized and believable characters. Amelia Zirin-Brown’s outrageous Lady Rizo, John Kelly’s amazing re-creation of Joni Mitchell, Steven Brinberg’s remarkable Simply Barbra, and John Epperson’s Lypsinka all share the creative muse that Borghesi taps into to create this amazing show’s persona, Signora Leannea Maria Josephina Marinara Borghesi. And, like those superstars, Borghesi shares a similar quality: extreme talent coupled with seemingly exhaustive inventiveness.

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It all comes together in What Is This Swing Called L-O-V-E?, another in a long line of mesmerizing shows.

With her piled-high ‘50s coif, over-the-top bling, black off-the-shoulder evening gown, and red boa, “Lennea” meanders through the audience to the stage to open with the Italian mambo “Meglio Stasera” (music by Henry Mancini, Italian lyrics by Franco Migliacci) from the 1963 Pink Panther movie, and the spell is cast. She speaks in fluent Italian, translating her amusing romantic advice to gusty laughter. 

Welcome to Signora Borghesi’s Love Lounge, where the many aspects of love are playfully presented. There’s the bewitching “Old Devil Moon” (E.Y. Harburg/Burton Lane), a sexy, coquettish cover of George Gershwin and Buddy DeSylva’s “Do It Again,” and a lovely medley of “Let’s Fall in Love” and “Taking a Chance on Love” played in an Italian rubato tempo. Borghesi leaves no detail unattended.

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Audience participation? You betcha. Raffle winners can spin the “Wheel of Lust” to win gag gifts, like fake orgasm sounds in a can. She saunters through the audience dancing with a few, joking with others.

Her intro to “Minnie the Moocher” is to “dance like someone’s sticking a $20 bill into your panties.” A set highlight was a dynamite rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ sizzling “I Put a Spell on You,” her vocals intense and convincing.  She wisely utilized woodwind master Roger Glenn and his trio as backup, with bassist Amanda Wu. A Borghesi show is always exciting, fully realized, and able to transport her fans into a new and thrilling world of pure entertainment at its finest. Grazie!

Nicolas Minas directed this show, keeping the focus sharp and concentrated.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.