Isaac Mizrahi is back at the Carlyle for more standards, rosé spritzers, and tales of a life on an anti-anxiety medication. If last year’s show suffered when he took himself too seriously, this year’s residency, Moderate to Severe, immediately shows just how firmly his tongue is planted in his cheek with opening number “I’ll Plant My Own Tree,” made famous by Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls. Embittered and emboldened by a year of Donald Trump in office, Mizrahi pokes fun at the current political climate, his own weight gain, and what it is to be gay in a set that shows how delightfully he’s settled into his role as a comedian and singer.
Mizrahi is at his best when he’s having fun reinterpreting a variety of tunes with his longtime musical director Ben Waltzer. A jazzed up version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” is strangely effective, his voice is solid, if not dynamic. That voice, however, has gotten much stronger as he realizes he has nothing to prove. When the music blends with his riotous interludes, he strikes gold, as on a slightly filthy and topical rewrite of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” with full titular innuendo implied. Much to the audience’s delight and maybe horror, his banter is particularly sharp and bawdy this go-round as he tells achingly personal stories and flirts with his band throughout.
Mizrahi is the tipsy seasoned queen at a dinner party beckoning everyone to the piano for naughty stories and songs in a way that makes even the Carlyle seem not intimate enough. In the end, the setting may be too intimate for those caught off guard, but that adds to the thrill of being in the room with him. When on one side of me, an older gentleman loudly asked, “What’s Grindr?” and on the other side, an older couple left because it was all too much for them, Isaac Mizrahi went from someone who made me suspicious with what I perceived to be a vanity project to a personal hero.
Photos by David Andrako
Cafe Carlyle, 35 East 76 Street at Madison Avenue, NYC – thru February 10