Orlando Fringe Review: Janine Klein: Gay Bar Star!

Orlando Fringe Review: Janine Klein: Gay Bar Star!

FringeReviewAbstr_816179758.jpgJanine Klein: Gay Bar Star!
John Ryan and His Divas

The bar is fully stocked, a trunk chock-full of boas is at the ready, and the mic stands lonely in the middle of the stage with anticipation. After an enthusiastic introduction from her assistant, the full house gets a heaping helping of something they didn’t even realize they were craving — Janine Klein: Gay Bar Star!

In a vehicle created by playwright John Ryan (My Pal Bette, New Rochelle), Janine Klein somehow manages to be a caricature of herself, a character larger than herself, and herself, all at the same time. True, the audience would probably be content simply hearing Klein belt a bunch of numbers in a traditional cabaret format, but this convention is a hell of a lot more fun. Ryan has given familiar songs new lyrics — Fiddler’s “Matchmaker” becomes “Match.com,” for example — and wrapped them in quips and commentary about gay life and a straight woman’s place in it, aided here and there by a quote or two from classic divas.

Ryan himself plays Klein’s assistant (and herbalist) Bradley, whose primary goal in life appears to be seeing how tight he can get his clothes before the circulation to his legs is completely shut off and he would be confined to a wheelchair. (At which point he would become a back-up mermaid for Bette Midler, no doubt.) Bradley is an addition to the show from its earlier run at Parliament House, and his interactions with Klein add a nice framework but don’t detract from the star.

There might be those who could pick apart Klein’s vocals, happily, my ears are not among them. Just when she seems to be heading toward an impossible note, she pulls it out from somewhere. And just when you start to miss the real Klein, she gives it to you with some heart-to-heart Sondheim. It has you hoping Klein will graduate from the bar scene…or at least get a chance to play bigger clubs.

To see a full schedule for the 2010 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, and purchase tickets, visit OrlandoFringe.org.

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