by Lisa Reitman-Dobi
“Tragedy plus time is comedy.” This is one tenet of the art and craft of comedy. Another: “Timing is everything.” Well, the time is now.
If ever we were in dire need of humor, this is it. When “The Broadway at Birdland Concert Series” slated “Randy Rainbow’s Pre-Inaugural Situation” for Monday, January 2, the house sold out.
Throughout the campaign months, Randy Rainbow’s hilarious, political mash-up videos have infused our daily lives with smart humor. As a magical mock interviewer, a dream debate moderator, the performances and concepts of this brilliant comedian have won fans across the country and around the globe. Randy’s sassy wit, his frank, funny and fierce humor gave crucial comic relief to an anxious pre-election audience.
Now that the campaigns are over, would his signature style fly? No. Skyrocket, yes.
Within seconds of his taking the stage, post-election stupor was replaced by belly laughs and applause. With his videos and live performance, often in duet, Randy’s act ran from a Do-Wop reprise of “GOP Dropout,” complete with his Frankie Valli pompadour, to “We Got Trouble,” the perfect score for the understatement of the century.
In a world powered by frenzied and ubiquitous media, life isn’t just providing comedians with material; it’s delivering entire characters that writers sweat to create. Randy did an “interview” with Marco Guttierrez, the leader of Latinos for Trump. Stated Guttierrez, “If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have a taco truck on every corner.” But tacos are bipartisan favorites! Even without tacos, what a feast: clever concepts and sketches that kept us in stitches. Hillary’s wardrobe, both candidates’ makeup: Randy knows exactly how to harvest life’s abundant absurdities.
Randy’s first guest was Hannah Rose DeFlumeri. Her rendition of “Losing my Mind” was a completely enchanting experience. With her eyes closed, immersed in her character, Hannah Rose sang with such longing, my eyes filled. I was sure that I’d hear a small, crystal sound as a piece of her broken heart fell to the floor.
The incredible Molly Pope popped onto the stage and blew everyone away. Bursting with “gotta dance” verve she did a number from her show, “A Star Is Born.” I was so excited, my notes turned to scrawl. The fact is, anything Molly sings is stellar. Her stage presence is utterly enthralling, and her enthusiasm, as well as her beauty and kind heart, breathtaking. She returned later with the most heart-rending performance of “The Man Who Got Away.” What a thrill to see her.
Ryan Raftery appeared and gave a robust performance of “Don’t Take Much.” This selection from “The Life” is written for “a character who has no respect for women… I do menacing so well!” (Raftery) But as boorish as those lyrics were, as ominous he was, Ryan’s delicious voice, warmth and charming affect rendered him a bit less intimidating than he might have liked. Ryan would need serious makeup to counter such a fine countenance. His stature and rich voice completely commands the room. Command is de rigeur –as is makeup- in his The Anna Wintour Musical, which hits Philly in February. Take that voice and add drag: I’d like two tickets, please.
After 15 years on cast in “Mamma Mia,” and on his way to another engagement, Gerard Salvador made time for an appearance that evening. He gave a no-holds-barred, stark, funny stream of consciousness number, munificently filled with exceptionally candid observations. I’m a greens kind of gal, but who doesn’t love a good roast?
Between guest spots, Randy returned with entr’actes of facetious, fabulous, edgy political humor. This comedian serves up priceless quips, saucy banter, and the Emperor’s New Clothes on a golden platter of divine irreverence.
Timing is everything; Randy, you’ve shown up just in time.
Many thanks to the entire staff at Birdland. This fine venue is a consistent pleasure. Special thanks to Gianni Valenti for his graciousness and incomparable attention to detail.
Visit Birdland at www.birdland jazz.com, and check out their calendar of events!
You can find Randy Rainbow’s fabulous videos on line, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. That is, of course, if you love to laugh.