Susan Campanero as Lavinia Draper: Missing Person

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Susan Campanero as Lavinia Draper

Missing Person

Susan Batson Studio, NYC, March 28, 2019

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

Susan Campanero

Susan Campanero is in character as Lavinia Draper from the get-do and she never lets up. There is a flamboyancy and aggressiveness to her portrayal of Lavinia, who is stuck in a jail cell, beseeching an officer to let her leave to get to her show elsewhere in Florida. As Campanero related the history of the life of Draper, she went for shock and sex appeal.

What hasn’t Draper done to get a role or to get a job or to make some money? When she ran away from home to Las Vegas, she got a job by appealing to a particular man’s sexual preferences. She got to sing, but she also had to “entertain” high rollers in a variety of ways. She referred to this both casually and subtly, but she was also direct when she said, “I made a terrible call girl because I forgot to get the money.” The show spent the entire time focusing on Draper’s back story, so this theme ran through the whole show.

Campanero wrote this lengthy script and Lynn Portas wrote roughly 10 original songs performed by Campanero. The lyrics and delivery were strong.
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Campanero even proceeded to work out during the entirety of one song.
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The songs told a different story than the script, one that was more positive and easier to sympathize with. They told of wanting to be loved and appreciated or even adored. Early lines like “Hold me and I’ll hold you right back” or “[I’m] a little too old to be a very young girl” framed this quest for appreciation of any kind. Later lines, for example, “Stage me, arrange me, hurt me so deeply, I don’t hurt anymore…I love you from a distance,” communicated that aspect of a fractured dream in a more profoundly familiar way.

Campanero deserves attention. In the world of cabaret, where practically everything is within bounds, she most certainly offers a unique experience, one that is unflinchingly direct. When, on the surface, the show takes on a kitchy and sometimes camp stance, it also very directly challenges certain norms of modern culture that are in some ways seen as unimpeachable. Hopefully, that makes for an uncomfortable (and perhaps necessary) confrontation with one’s own opinions.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see