Immersive theatre is the new buzz word for theatrical experiences that, simply put, merge the audience with the show. It removes the trappings of pure voyeurism and encourages a participatory adventure that may be the future of theater.
Pompeii's Place, the new blues show running on a special schedule at Don't Tell Mama, has all the makings of what could be a time machine; step back to the early days of this country and find yourself immersed in the world of blues' evening. It won't be a smoky joint in Harlem; but a backroom in a favorite New York cabaret club, where a fun sense of the blues world is beautifully created. and where you can step on board for great time.
The host, Arthur Pomosello, who had an eighteen year stint at the Algonquin Club, looks like Kirk Douglas and delivers a patter about the singers that's Mad Man sexism with fatherly overtones. This of course, gives the fantastic singers, a chance to prove him wrong and show how singing the blues gave the singers and all of us a healing outlet...not victimhood.
When the lights drop, out swings alto Lezlie Harrison, with a big voice, getting it all started with W.C. Handy's St. Louis Blues. Next up is Brianna Thomas, a frequent performer at Dizzy's Club and The Kennedy Center. She's a large gal with a gorgeous sound and knows how to act as demonstrated in "I Keep My Stove in Good Condition."
The third chanteuse, Hilary Gardner has humor and a terrific voice and style. Her Ten Cents a Dance had diners wanting to ask her to join them on the floor. She has sung with Frank Sinatra...what else is there to say?
The musicians behind, in front and sideways are great...Ehud Asherie is musical director, using everything he learned at Small's., The inimitable Ken Peplowski is on reeds, David Wong, bass and the legendary Jackie Williams on drums.
What's missing for me...and this is a compliment, is a longer show. I just wanted the evening to go on and on. I'd like to see people get up and dance...they're doing it in their chairs... the music calls for it.
Given the time to 'do' up the space with a little design (tiny lamps on the tables instead of candles) and costumes for the waiters...Pompie's Place could easily become the event for blues lovers.
Beck Lee is a consulting producer and he certainly knows his audience. The show runs May 11, 28 at 7pm and May 10 at 1 pm at Don't Tell Mama's on 46th Street. Delicious dinner is served with the show