Lea DeLaria: Lea Sings, You Eat

Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
January 6, 2013
artist web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 6, 2013

  • “I know every f*cking person in this room.”
  • “Who doesn’t like a Boogaloo?”
  • “I’ve never worked with so many f*cking lesbians before, and I’ve worked in a dyke bar.” [about her new show Orange is the New Black]
  • “F*ck The L Word up its *ss. My show has a fisting scene in the f*cking pilot.”

Lea DeLaria, couch and shoes

Now some weeks after this delectable event, I have a bit of free brain space to post some reflections on a bit of late night, often off-color, and totally delectable cabaret I enjoyed in the middle of a bright and cold winter early January Sunday in Manhattan. Lea DeLaria, hot and cool jazz, Joe’s Pub, a room full of celebrity friends and simple local fans like me and my pals. Discuss.

play it cool cover

The off-color humor is riotous, continual, and irreverent. (An image involving a certain, um, technique and invoking the names of Judy Garland and Joan Crawford, among others, still lingers for me, not entirely pleasantly.) Fancy fun friends (in my audience Kate Mulgrew and Natasha Lyonne) in attendance laugh and applaud along with the rest of us. In the intimate and shadowy Joe’s Pub performance venue we are treated to DeLaria’s bawdy ballsy persona, sure (see quotes above for a sample). I’m here for the scatological jazz experience I know DeLaria can provide and I am not disappointed. I was introduced to her jazz chops with the 2001 recording Play It Cool, and I am delighted that today’s performance provides some items from that recording and a range of other selections.

DeLaria scats her way through “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You” and slides through “Call Me.” Befitting her agenda of re-imagining American jazz standards, she and her drummer slow “Miss Otis Regrets” to an aching crawl.  She performs spoken jazz in counterpoint with her bass player and gives a simple and honest and clear ‘Yesterdays” that breaks your heart.  And one of my favorites — a rousing and infectious “All That Jazz.” (“start … the … car … I know a whoopee spot ..”) Her version of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, used here as a finale and which begins her Play It Cool recording is an anthem, a call to arms, a delight.

Come back, Ms. DeLaria, we miss you.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 30, 2013)

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