By Myra Chanin . . .
The delightful, multifaceted, mistress of all trades, Leanne Borghesi has been described as a “feast of outrageousness.” She’s a volcanic eruption of talent, an artistic dynamo, a perpetual motion powerhouse of musical and comic flair. Her extensive CV includes training in Acting, Singing, Improv, Movement, Clowning and (even!) Puppetry at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Upright Citizens Brigade and Yale University as well as master classes with the Marvelous Marilyn Maye. A guru of shocking shtick, Ms. Borghesi hooked the audience initially via TV monitor on which she was encased in a hooded yellow rain slicker, answering the question of where the hell she’s been. Her answer wows her observers. She’s been longing and looking forward to finding an audience that can be together with her in one place. And this was the place!
A few minutes later, she’s on stage in the flesh, unzipping her outer garment to reveal a handsome, stately dame in a sparkly red sequin gown, ready, willing and unbelievably able to share her 15-month long journey through the Pandammit! with us. It began in March 2020 when the Pandammit ended her sweet out of town club gig, headlining 5 nights a week at the Lucky Horseshoe’s Ruby Room in Reno NV. It ended when she was truly back in business at Don’t Tell Mama in very late July 2021 when she brought live entertainment to New York with laughter, community, accessibility and joy! Hoorah!
Leanne describes herself as as the love child of Phyllis Diller & Liberace. Hrmphh! Howzat for discombobulated DNA? She swirls a feather boa around her ivory shoulders, pulls out a flask from her ample bosom, bumps and grinds through the introduction of an outlier’s anthem: “If there’s a wrong way to do it, nobody does it like me!” and revels in raucous applause.
Her first stop in her journey Inside USA was the Madame Shangri La Ranch, a New Mexico Nudist Colony — the only woman at its annual all-Male Woo-Woo Workshop where she twirled Tassies for tips and they really really liked her lovely bunch of coconuts.
She struck it rich with the arrival of her first government stimulus check , She spent it on a steal of a deal, a 1976 blue and yellow striped, Free Flier Winnebago, which she named Wally, She, he and a dusty copy of the United States National Parks for Brassy Broad rode out the pandemic as tight as three peas in a pod, performing as the KOA Goodtime Gal with the Gowns, connecting strangers at KOA Campground singing songs like “Hanky Panky.”
Most of Leanne’s songs are upbeat, quirky and lively, but the outstanding in her set was following the romantic Lerner and Loewe’s “Another Autumn” with the exquisite “Alone Together,” by Dietz and Schwartz.
Leanne and Wally parted ways at the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum where she played him forward by bestowing him on a hard-hit young family before heading back to New York, the town for her. Don’t Tell Mama agreed and welcomed her back!!!
Her song list is as versatile as she is. It opens with a song written for her about her longing for an audience when everyone can be “Together in One Place,” a feeling we all share. There are show tunes by Broadway’s Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, Charles Strouse, Mel Brooks, Jeanine Tesori, Cole Porter, Hal David and Country and Western superstar Willie Nelson. Leanne sings each one as if it written specifically for her.
What more can I say? Her vocal chords are a match for Ethel Merman’s and she has three times the charm of Merman who had almost none, combined with the style and wicked wit of Sophie Tucker as interpreted by Bette Midler. If Leanne had been born 50 years earlier she’d be starring in Ziegfeld Follies, which made me wonder where Flo is now that Leanne needs him. According to Google, he’s RIPing in Valhalla, not the hall in Norse mythology but the Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County. Fortunately, New York found a replacement for Flo in Sidney Myer, the booking director of Don’t Tell Mama, who displays a similar appreciation for talent and where Leanne Borghesi and her accomplished Musical Director Brandon Adams are scheduled to return on Friday Night September 10th at 7 PM.
A final word to the wise. Make an advance reservation to be sure you’ll have a spot to deposit your ass. Leanne Borghesi’s show deserves to be standing-room-only and probably will be.
Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St. 212-757-0788 Ext 6.
Photo Credit: Stephen Mosher