By Steve Nardoni
I couldn’t have come up with a better plan to kick off the Friday of Pride weekend than by spending time with David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney, AKA Władziu Valentino Liberace and Norma Deloris Egstrom, AKA Liberace and Peggy Lee.
This one-night performance was showcased at the cozy Triad Theater on the Upper West Side, home to numerous Off-Broadway productions (Forbidden Broadway, Forever Plaid, Spamilton and Celebrity Autobiography) as well as a slew of performances by the likes of Martin Short, Ryan Reynolds, Matthew Broderick, Paul Rudd, Tracey Morgan, and Tommy Tune. Lady Gaga made her professional debut there. The uniqueness of the theater was the perfect landscape for Liberace and Peggy to work their magic and to more easily provide Liberace with the intimacy he struggled to achieve in numerous over-the-top productions in Las Vegas.
Swishing onto stage to the candelabra-ed piano, wearing a shimmering suit of glitter with piano-key lapels and cuffs, and bejeweled fingers, Maiocco smoothly body snatched and channeled Liberace to a”T”. He kicked off with Liberace’s signature combo of classic (Rimsky-Korsokov) and pop (Boogie Woogie) with “Flight of the Bumble Bee Boogie.” We were enrapt (as all audiences were by the original Liberace) by the keyboard skill and showmanship of Maiocco.
Out pops Chuck Sweeney as Miss Peggy Lee, also a shimmering vision in white with white-framed sunglasses! He sounded EXACTLY like Peggy, and with her first song, “I’m A Woman” (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) kicks ass with an unabashed rendition of songstress as an icon. Mebbe the country needs to be hearing more lyrics like “I can make a dress out of a feed bag and I can make a man out of you…!”
Miss Lee tells us she is looking forward to Pride festivities but admits that she is still “…recovering from Fleet Week…” But to display how game the old gal is, she and Lee break into a sexy, double-meaning rendition of “Cruisin’” (Smokey Robinson), a song that can be proudly wailed this weekend throughout the city:
“I love it when we’re cruising together
Music is played for love,
Cruising is made for love
I love it when we’re cruising together”
The rest of the show delivers the essences of either Liberace, Peggy or both, in song or of them doing the schticks that made them who they were. Liberace grabbed a cutie in tight shorts from the audience to act as his wardrobe mister, as the flamboyant pianist flings heavy capes here and there. Peggy channeled Joan Rivers and her penchant for face-lift shaming: “…she looked like a Pekinese in a wind tunnel..” We were peppered with schmaltz, flooded with skilled piano-ing with “Malaguena” (Ernesto Lecuona) and bathed in marvelous renditions of Peggy Lee doing Judy Garland and Cher.
Their repertoire included a hysterical duet of their entry for “American Idol.” What could have been more antithetical than Liberace and Peggy Lee singing their version of ‘Uptown Funk”? And Maiocco neatly replicated from the film “Sincerely Yours” Liberace’s boogie-woogie, including the break where we all got to shout “HEY”!!!
Liberace and Miss Lee let us go with “I’ll Be Seeing You” (Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal) but not without a longing to see this talent perform again.
The Triad Theater at 158 West 72nd Street on June 22, 2018.