by Myra Chanin
Don’t believe in an afterlife? Then explain how two world-renowned, deceased superstars, Ms. Peggy Lee and Mr. Lee Liberace, who croaked 15 years apart and were entombed 12 miles away from each other, overcame these troubling obstructions and hauled both their ectoplasm and their entire Autumn wardrobes to a hilarious, harmonious, third-time Labor Day weekend reunion at the Metropolitan Room where their ovation-bent fans hooted, hollered and hailed their Vegas worthy performances and outfits – note the plural — convincing me that they had been brought back from the beyond by the prayers of their costume purveyors. They were both in great form, although Ms. Lee proved conclusively that not ingesting any foodstuffs for 14 years was no guarantee of weight loss.
Mr. Liberace looking as he did at age of 30 in a pristine white over-ruffled shirted and sleeved, diamond studded, black sequin tuxedo opened the show with his refurbished, improved arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, his sweeping keyboard flourishes and the rings on his fingers lighted by three flickering candles tottering on a genuine imitation 24-karet gold candelabra. He greeted the audience by lauding the pleasure of performing in such a marvelously small room (which I presume supplied him with neither the 50K weekly or the perks he received from the Riviera) and reminded us of his glory days when he worked with superstars like Lola Falana and Joey Heatherton. The few youngsters (under 40) in the room had no idea who he was talking about, but the rest of us, who had not yet been felled by Alzheimer’s, recalled their names but couldn’t manage to dredge up their faces. The self-dubbed Mr. Showmanship knew we wanted to examine his diamond buttons and offered the nameless woman seated on my right – initials FF – easy access to his bling, but, dumbstruck by all the attention, she turned into Helen Keller.
Then Peggy Lee, resplendent in a shiny new black sequin tent with matching coke bottle sunglasses and her de rigueur platinum wig, stepped on stage and quickly revealed her most recent trauma: when her thankless children – all sharper than serpents’ teeth – convinced Judge Maria Geretty that Peg belonged in the Doris Day Pavilion of the Hollywood Home for the Chronically Bewildered, and under 24 hour lock and key! Heart-scalded by the ingratitude of her heirs, Ms. Lee vowed to remember that court hearing “as long as I can.”
After her release from The Home, Peg had an unfortunate blackout and “fell face first into my lobster bisque at Spago’s, which resulted in a six week long hospital stay that included scans, MRIs, even a colonoscopy – I have really good health insurance – proving there was nothing organically wrong with me. I just sometimes mix my meds.”
Liberace vanished to get into another sartorially splendid outfit while Peggy sang some of her hits to track. When he returned, in the silver and white caped number in the photo, he uncovered a rhumba rhythm in A Little Night Music, beat out some Boogie-Woogie and let Peggy slip off to change into something equally spectacular. Returning in virginal sequined white, she described her visit with the Dalai Lama, channeled Eartha Kitt, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller and Judy Garland. And more!
At the show’s conclusion, the audience rose and cheered! And who could blame them!
Chuck Sweeney has been playing Ms. Peggy Lee for at least a decade and his/her comments get funnier as well as more poignant whenever he’s in the vicinity of 20 sequins. Liberace’s alter ego, David Maiocco previously accompanied many top cabaret singers and has Liberace’s pretentious piano playing down to a p, but he’s a newcomer to the comedy impression scene, he needs to build up his Liberace persona beyond the outfits with honing and research. For instance, let him explain why the Liberace Museum, located in a Las Vegas strip mall, displayed a huge photo of Liberace’s ringed fingers with his nails badly in need of a manicure. Or why it closed. And practice Liberace’s nasal whiney delivery, found on YouTube, until he has that down to a d.
Chuck Sweeney also plays Peggy Lee with comic, Life Coach and born Cathoholic Nancy Witter, using different material. Peggy and Nancy are connected by a backstory about how and why they got together. I think a similar connective opening backstory and a few more biographical details would turn Lee Squared from marvelous into magnificent.