Last week formerly deceased songbird, Peggy “Lazarus” Lee, joined the pantheon of resuscitated megastars, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, in the cabaret catacombs at the rear of Don’t Tell Mama, a mostly female haven, where (in alphabetical order) Lauren Bacall, Fanny Brice, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Madeline Kahn and Sophie Tucker now abide, while Liza with no need for a last name and Carole Channing wait in the wings.
Ms. Nancy Witter, a Nick at Nite’s Funniest Mom in America Finalist, accompanied Ms. Lee back from the afterlife. The disembodied voice of comedian Ted McElroy portrayed a bored booking agent who stumbled on the Eureka! idea of matching up a semi-discombobulated, intermittently drug-addled, 96 years young, not quite living legend and a half-her-age very Cath-o-holic Mom, had them become acquainted via songs, stories, limericks and befuddled memories before taking their has been/wannabe act to hot destinations like Terre Haute IN and Cedar Rapids IO, before moving on to the showroom dedicated to Ms. Lee in Branson MO in her dreams.
Ms. Witter is a very direct and effectively hilarious performer. She makes no bones about from whence she came – a family with more children than their mother had memory. Her crafted truthfulness makes her very easy to understand, relate to and love. And her material kills! She interacts so compellingly with Ms. Lee that I predict their future together will be even more astonishing than either of their pasts.
As for Ms. Lee, her ectoplasm has been deposited into the corpus of OMG! Mac and Bistro-Award Winner Chuck Sweeney, whose body, I daresay, is shaped more like a fireplug than the one Ms. Lee inhabited in her previous life which mean those fan-blown flowing diaphanous gowns are now out and Spoiler Alert! the lady has memory issues. .
Ms. Lee and Ms. Winter present a noticeable fashion contrast. Ms. Lee was ensconced in a silver-sequined long-sleeved sturdy robe, festooned with pristine snow white, but imperfectly glued on feathers decorating the sleeves. Glitzy diamond studded white sunglasses covered most of the face that remained visible between her platinum page boy hairdo and the extended ropes of pearls – picked up on Bourbon Street after Mardi Gras? – which swung between her neck and her Christian Louboutin-ish stiletto heels. The more down-to-earth Ms. Winter stayed loyal to the national color of Ireland. Her black sheath with unwashed lace-curtain Irish sleeves bedecked by a looped circular silver necklace would be considered haut couture at any Irish wake.
Ms. Lee sung her heart out, backed by full orchestral tracks complete with key changes, which she pointed out lest anyone miss them. She sounded as glorious as ever warbling her biggest hits: “Fever,” “Is That All There Is?” and “He’s A Tramp,” the tune that paid for her lavish funeral after the law helped her squeeze royalties due her from that tightwad Walt Disney, rumored to have become the first cryogenically frozen corpse but who was actually cremated. Talk about irony! Ms. Lee also shared a real-time recording of her conversation with an OnStar functionary when the car she was driving ended up in her neighbor, Ms. Mary Pickford’s, swimming pool. Chuck’s presentation of Peggy Lee is a loving portrait. It’s a prototype of any great singer including a few flaws she’d prefer to keep to herself. Fortunately, Chuck Sweeney tells and sings all.
Ms. Lee hopefully will be back from the crypt at Don’t Tell Mama again soon, either with Ms. Winter or accompanied by Lee Liberace aka David Maiocco in show called Lee Squared. However if you feel the need to double up with laughter in the interim, Ted McElroy in the flesh and shlepping his oxygen tank will be at Don’t Tell Mama on Saturday Night July 9, 2016 at 7 pm celebrating his Second Annual “I’m Not Dead Yet … But I’m Getting Closer” reunion with his longtime partners-in-laughter and mates-in-verbal mayhem from the funniest hour ever broadcast on the radio waves, Joey Reynolds’ WOR-AM Gay Hour: Nancy Witter naturally, Chris Christie’s nemesis Danny McWilliams, the incomparable “I Love” Sidney Myer, Osama Bin Laden’s widow Mamie ne Shecky Beagleman hopefully in her full shiva burqua and Richard Green from the old Ron Poole Comedy show.
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46th St. New York City
$20 cover charge
Two drink minimum. The maximum is up to you.