Kiki & Herb: Alive From Broadway
As Kathy St. George is doing Judy Garland at the Lyric Stage and Suzanne Goulet’s Liza recently wowed the Newton South crowd as part of the 2007 "Basically Broadway" revue, it seemed like a good time for the proverbially "banned in Boston" cabaret act of Kiki & Herb to make their triumphant return. And they do with Kiki and Herb: Alive from Broadway, their recent Tony-nominated hit that they bring to town on the first stop of their national tour.
Apparently, though, they never left. In fact, in between uproariously torqued takes on such torch-ed tunes as Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, Radiohead’s Creep, Dan Fogelberg’s Same Auld Lang Syne, and a certain tune by Bonnie Tyler that had the audience (and the performers) nearly in tears, is a through-story of the dynamic duo’s truly eternal existence that makes Kiki & Herb come off a bit like Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks. Though the tale of generational regeneration and Divine sustenance (by way of a stuffed cow?) gets about as thin as Kiki’s Laugh-I"-inspired frilly coochie cover, it does allow Kiki (far more than Herb) to expound on such touchy topics as the Catholic Church and the Prada-wearing Pope (who else wears Prada?,) the birth of Cubism and the afterbirth of Christ. Holding court from a dead tree that designer Scott Pask has kindly equipped with cup holders while her more silent partner hides under a giant sparkly leaf (draw your own metaphorical conclusions,) Kiki recalls reuniting with her daughter and her time shared with her grinning head-shaking piano player in "the institutional" where they met and honed their act.
Now, generations (if not millennia) later, the well-shaved and convincing chanteuse Kiki (Justin Bond) comes across as a combination of Cruella DeVille, Anthony Newley, Rufus Wainwright and Rebecca Parris (the latter two, at least, are compliments;) while the gold laméd Herb (Kenny Mellman) mixes Buddy Young, Jr. and Kevin Pollack. Lighting designer Jeff Crotier gives Kiki most of the spotlight (not that she wouldn’t take it anyway!), but it is actually in the darker moments when Herb’s piano skills come to light. Otherwise, he has difficulty keeping up and matching notes with his drama queen partner (though this could easily be a case of Mellman being good enough to be purposely bad).
Part unabashedly improvisational cabaret act; part political/philosophical/psychological/religious commentary, "Kiki & Herb" is far more than any one thing. Perhaps that is why the pair has needed to be around for so long- o they could gain this broad perspective and enlighten their audiences night after night.
In the end, there is only one thing left to say: "Wake up. Eat your cereal. Be nice."
Thanks for the tip, Kiki. May we remember it as long as you are around...And, as in the case of so many other overblown "farewell" tours, may that be for a good long time!
Kiki and Herb: Alive From Broadway runs through June 30 at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston, MA. Performances: Tuesdays-Thursday 7:30pm; Friday 8:00pm; Saturday 4:00pm and 8:00pm; and Sunday (June 17 only)2:00 pm. Tickets: $25.00--$50.00. For more information visit bostontheatrescene.com.