Toby Yatso & Seth Tucker: Naughty & Nice Cabaret

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Toby Yatso & Seth Tucker

Naughty & Nice Cabaret

The Judith Hardes Theater at The Phoenix Theatre Co., Phoenix, AZ, December 15, 2019

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Toby Yatso & Seth Tucker

It only took a moment to figure out who was the naughty guy and who was the nice guy. The conflict between these two multi-talented performers woven among 26 R- and X-rated songs had the already boisterous audience laughing throughout.
Seth Tucker, a recent transplant from New York, threw away all social filters as he first appeared as Jesus in a toga, then in costumes ranging from a white-haired Maria Von Trapp to what can only be described as an elf on crack.
Tucker, small in stature but large in musical talent, clowned through “O Holy Night” and “Dead, Dead, Dead” (South Park); a mash-up of the Elvis hit “Blue Christmas” and Leann Rimes’ “Blue”; John Legend’s “Nutmeg”; and, at his peak of frustration with Toby Yatso, “No More Fucks to Give” by Thomas B. Wild, Esq. 

Yatso is one of the most accomplished and talented musical theater performers in Arizona. He is the musical theater coordinator at Arizona State University, a permanent artist-in-residence at Phoenix Theatre, and a veteran of many productions. He is as “nice” as he is tall.
Not able to tolerate Tucker’s outrageous behavior he does his best to sing his songs with class, demonstrating his clear baritone range, perfect intonation, and Broadway-quality dance skills.  Both men slide in and out of falsetto with ease. Yatso did his share of comedy with “Santa Likes Rich Kids Better,” “Santa Lost His Mojo,” “Fuck the Poor,” and Barbra Streisand’s rendition of “Jingle Bells?” “I Don’t Remember Christmas” could have used a little more rehearsal, but it was one of my favorites. His fast-lyric patter skills also amazed in “Holiday Party” (Co-Op, the Musical). He found a poignant musical moment with pianist Greg Paladino on “Night Will Come” from the musical, Groundhog Day.

I would be remiss not to mention the brilliant contributions made by Paladino and by vocalists Brianna McClure and Hahnna Christianson. Uncredited on the advertising, these young women added clear, precise harmonies and depth, both visually and musically, to the show. They nearly stole the show with their duet “What Do Bad Girls Get,” prompting Yatso to tell them they were “too good” and to “get off the stage.” They shined in “Christmas Message” by Fascinating Aida and with Yatso in a “Peter, Paul, and Mary” parody borrowed from Saturday Night Live.

The tension between naughty and nice had a little lull after Tucker’s turn at lyric prowess with “Thank You God” by Tim Minchin. Christianson appeared in a white robe as God and she and Tucker stretched his inability to pronounce “Hallelujah” into too many verses of Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece. Yatso and McClure also did a great job with “Fine” from Ordinary Days the Musical, but it was disconnected from the central conflict with Tucker.

All was resolved when Tucker, now dressed in sweats, sees the error of his ways and laments with Joni Mitchell’s “River,” taking some lyric liberty to win his co-star back. Yatso forgives, allowing Tucker his Maria Von Trapp fantasy which is funny because The Sound of Music is selling out at Phoenix Theatre and he longs to play Maria. The show wraps with the Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet of “Peace on Earth” and “Little Drummer Boy.”

Once again, bravo to producer and scenic designer Daniel Davisson for the Holiday Cabaret Series at Phoenix Theatre.