Andrea Bell Wolff: Andrea Bell Wolff’s Vegas Adventure

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Andrea Bell Wolff

Andrea Bell Wolff’s Vegas Adventure

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 1, 2021

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Andrea Bell Wolff

A tiny dynamo who proudly announces her age as 72, Andrea Bell Wolff took her audience on a journey into the past. Specifically, her past, when at the age of 19 she set off to conquer Las Vegas. Already a presence in several productions of Hello, Dolly!, both on Broadway and on tour, forever an Ermengarde longing to be a Minnie Fay (oddly, there is not a single number from the show included in the song list despite it being referred to multiple times), she was in search of a new opportunities in a new environment.

Wolff and music director Jude Obermüller have assembled an impressive mix of melodies, collected from many musical worlds, to tell the story. This is indeed a musical comedy as opposed to a more traditional cabaret act, illustrated with projections and video clips, and costume changes and props. There’s a supporting cast embodied by the handsome and talented Elliott Litherland, who fills in for all the men and a few of the women in Wolff’s life. His contributions cannot be undervalued. Everything is under the direction of Jimmy Larkin.

The center of the fun unquestionably was Wolff, as singer, raconteur, actress, and comedienne. Kicking off the show with the appropriate “I Am Playing Me” (Jeff Bowen) and the scene-setting “Vegas” (Sara Bareilles), this was not only entertaining theater, but smart theater as well. The score was continuously varied throughout the show with a mix of pop and show music sources, and the latter were definitely not the usual. They included Susan Birkenhead and Lucy Simon (“Pretty Young Men”) and Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy (“Big Time”), both well worked into the narrative.

The highlight of the show was the account of Wolff’s time being featured in the legendary long-running Vegas burlesque show Bottom’s Up. Numbers such as “Sex Education” (Suzanne Buhrer) and “Bounce Your Boobies”—a specialty by and for the legendary Rusty Warren—highlighted her irreverent humor and her lack of inhibition, which totally won the audience over. This section climaxed with the wonderfully filthy “Hot Dog Song” (Tausha Hammed and Clarence Williams), complete with choreography, outrageous props, and appropriate costumes—or lack thereof for the muscular Litherland. Such insanity was hard to follow up on and that’s where the show hit its one snag.

Wolff’s year ended in a bittersweet departure from the city and from romance. A series of ballads summing this up “Clown” (Emeli Sandé, Shahid Khan and Grant Mitchell) and “Rainbow Sleeves” (Tom Waits) gave the last segment of the show a heavy feeling and a lack of resolution. The audience needed some sort of uplift to point toward the future.

In addition to Obermüller, able musical support was provided by bass player Sam Zerna and percussionist Doug Hinrichs.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."