Friday, July 3, 2015


Beards Are For Shaving: a 007 Cabaret



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

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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