Beards Are For Shaving: a 007 Cabaret
by Toby Zinman
for the Inquirer
You may be shaken but certainly not stirred at The Bearded Ladies’ newest show: “Beards Are For Shaving: a 007 Cabaret.” This group? company? collective? team? of terrifically clever performers take on the iconic with great voices and irreverent glee: last time it was Scarlett O’Hara, next time it will be Marie Antoinette (just in time for Bastille Day). This time it’s James Bond. Where better to interrogate gender roles than with bearded ladies and the world’s infatuation with the man “who took the hu out of humanity.”
There is faux bondage, there are cardboard guns and cardboard sharks and a laser that looks like a middle-school science fair project. Into these hallowed scenes of bad guys and sexy women, with songs like “Live and Let Die”, “Thunderball,”and “Diamonds are Forever” comes feminist Judith Baxter (author of Gender Trouble) in a black S&M costume who tries to emasculate James Bond, a “relic of the Cold War,” and thereby free us all from gender nostalgia. “Tomorrow is coming, Mr. Bond, and tomorrow never dies.”
The women: Kristen Bailey, Liz Filios, Rebecca Kanach and Mary Tuomanen, play a variety of Bond females like Pussy Galore. And where would 007 be without Miss Moneypenny, here played by guest artist Dito Van Reigersberg in a blonde wig and a sweet pink dress who provides accompaniment by tapping away on her manual typewriter.
The musicians: Heath Allen, the songwriting, piano-playing talent behind the new lyrics for the old songs, accompanied by guest bassist Andrew Nelson. And what an idea to evoke all those Bond movie songs without a trumpet in sight.
But the star, of course, is Bond, James Bond, and this review is really a fan letter to Jarboe, John Jarboe, a man capable of simultaneous sleek, tuxedoed Bondness and sleek, tuxedoed self-mockery. What makes his performance all the more remarkable is that he has just come from the Adrienne Theatre where he is performing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. as the gay clothing designer Rudi Gernreich in The Temperamentals (a performance I enjoyed, even if I didn’t much like the play). Jarboe has about half an hour to get from one theater to the other, change clothes and accents (Viennese to British), and then give ‘em the old razzle dazzle. There’s no business like show business.
The Bearded Ladies at the Wilma Theater Lobby, Broad & Spruce Sts. Through April 15. Tickets $20-25 (inc. martinis). Information: 215-546-7824 or www.wilmatheater.org