Leslie Carrara-Rudolph: What Just Happened?

Leslie Carrara-Rudolph

What Just Happened?

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, January 28, 2018

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Leslie Carrara-Rudolph

As a performer, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph isn’t typically alone. Most known for her work as Abby Cadabby on Sesame Street, Carrara-Rudolph has spent a good portion of her career bringing puppet characters to life. So what happens when she decides to stand solo in the spotlight with her first “adult cabaret”?

In a debut like this there are bumps to be expected and, indeed, Carrara-Rudolph got off to a heavy-handed and clumsy start, filled with awkward physical comedy and shtick galore (sight gags, costume changes, and even puppets). Following a format of “10 Things to Do in an Adult Cabaret,” she sets out to find the absurd in these clichés. 

The “Dramatic Stool Number” for “What a Difference a Day Made” (Maria Grever/Stanley Adams) finds her caught on her stool, fish-flopping, before launching into a series of ridiculous non-sequiturs in patter. There’s a “Dedication Song” and an “Overcoming Personal Obstacles Number” (a very “adult” shadow-box sequence with severed limbs and vomit). Carrara-Rudolph, overall, seemed to be working hard.

But, half way through, she settled, using crowd work as a catalyst.
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With no shtick as crutch, except for her quick wit, Carrara-Rudolph instantly comes alive when answering audience member’s questions as elderly (and charmingly blunt) Granny Dot. Then, a Madame Velveeta skit, where she reads audience members’ minds, finally removing a participant’s sock and finding a plethora of uses for it in a recreation of the movie of The Wizard of Oz (Brilliance!). And, in a breathtaking switcheroo, Carrara-Rudolph shares with puppet-friend “Lolly” a devastating story of a fabulous gay uncle who goes off to Oz—a thinly veiled reference of a (perhaps) AIDS-related death. 

By the finale, “Young at Heart” (Johnny Richards/Carolyn Leigh), it’s hard not to love Carrara-Rudolph. Indeed, we want to get to know her alone in the spotlight and long to see her deal with more serious subject matter. But, her zany zest for life and cockeyed capers endear her to children and, as this showing proves, adults alike.
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Randolph B. Eigenbrode

Randolph is the newest addition to the writing staff at Cabaret Scenes. He is a cabaret teacher, previously teaching with legend Erv Raible, and his students have gone on to success in the field with sold-out shows and many awards. He is also a director and that, combined with a knowledge of the art form and techniques that cabaret performing encompasses, makes him love reviewing NYC’s cabaret scene. When not catching the Big Apple’s crazy talent, Randolph loves 1970s variety shows, mall Chinese food, Meryl Streep films and a good cold glass of pinot grigio.