Another Class Act at the Wick Theater

By Myra Chanin . . .

There’s only one way to say it: Boca’s Wick Theater is a class act, a conclusion amply demonstrated by its recent superb production of Gypsy and both nights of Christine Pedi’s dazzling one-woman show, Great Dames. Pedi’s show pays heartfelt homage, when it isn’t wickedly lampooning, the leading female lights of Broadway – occasionally Hollywood as well – between the end of WWII to the onset of Covid, which darkened every interior Broadway, off-Broadway and Cabaret electric bulb except for the ghost light.

Pedi is a pretty great dame herself. She appeared on the Great White way as Chicago’s Mama Morton, played eight different characters in the original Little Me and was an offstage voice of a caller who confronted Talk Show radio host Liev Schreiber in Eric Bogosian’s play. Pedi serves as my shopping companion via her hosting of Sirius XM’s On Broadway in which she juxtaposes high-profile hits with less memorable tunes five days a week. Her CV includes being married to Bobby Baccalieri Jr. on what many people consider TV greatest series, The Sopranos, where she got to utter five lines in three scenes of two episodes before being struck by an auto. Her estate included a pan of her fabulous frozen ziti which her grieving widower couldn’t bring himself to reheat for several months.

But always my most sidesplitting memories of Pedi are as the no-holds-barred star of many Forbidden Broadways where she perfected her vocal and physical impressions of the late, lamented Judy, Joan, Ethel, Elaine, Julia, Patti, Katherine, Doris, Bette and Eartha, and the still quite alive and kicking Liza, Barbra, Bernadette, Julie, Maggie, Chita, Rita and Angela. All of them have accompanied her to Federal Highway and were included in the fabulous finale of her Great Dames presentation, which left her audience howling with laughter, thanks to her wise adherence to the wisdom Polonius bestowed on Hamlet about brevity being the soul of wit, which several centuries later was corrected by Dorothy Parker who noted that brevity was also the soul of lingerie.

Christine is also a very adroit storyteller! One of the funniest moments in the show is when Pedi latches on to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, an 800-page Russian novel, which she condenses into four sentences:

Anna is married.

She falls in love.

It doesn’t go well.

She throws herself under a train.

During the accompanying song we learn that Anna didn’t throw herself under just any old train, but the Astrakhan, Tbilisi and Kiev Express, and is ferried to Moscow in a body bag to the clickity clack of “The Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe,” a tune by Harry Warren with lyrics by that poet of the southland, Johnny Mercer.

Pedi’s multi-star finale pays homage not only to the stars she imitates but has them singing phrases of her favorite Broadway Show, Chicago, which Pedi describes as “a diamond.” In addition, she celebrated the birthdays of two Broadway giants, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber respectively by singing Broadway Baby and a Webber ballad and finishing up with an immortal Kander Chicago vamp.

As is the case with many funny people, being funny stops everyone from realizing how intensely gifted Pedi is as a singer in her own right. I’d like to see her step on stage in an elegant hides-all-flaws Streisand-type black schmatta, a piece of important jewelry and spend many minutes letting us hear and see how she would have played Fanny, Eliza, Mama Rose or Mrs. Lovett, if that kind of stardom had been offered to her.

Pedi’s musical director, Matthew Martin Ward, has played in the Broadway orchestras of many shows, including Avenue Q, La Cage aux Folles, Urinetown and Tommy and was the musical director of two editions of the long-running off Broadway Forbidden Broadway. His longtime collaboration with Christine Pedi has taken him all over the world, and righty so. I was particularly touched by his inserting the refrain for “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” one of Mary Martin’s early Cole Porter hits, as counterpoint in an Eliza Doolittle chart, even though there was no reference at all to Ms. Martin in the libretto.

Here’s the good news. Christine Pedi will be co-starring with Barry Pearl, the original Doody in the hit movie Grease, from April 21st to May 15, 2022 at The Wick in Breaking Up is Hard to Do, a tribute to Neil Sedaka.  

One last note … or two. In addition to being a theater, the wick also contains a fine dining room and an extraordinary custume museum — both worth tasting and seeing.

Pedi’s first night was also offered as a VIP fundraiser and Christine could not have been friendlier to the Wick supporters who lined up to meet her. She happily posed for selfies with them, chatted as long as each wanted. She was simply graciousness in action.  Nuff said.