“Misters and Sisters” DanceNow Joe’s Pub
Last night, David Parker/The Bang Group provided ample proof for musical comedy as an avenue for political action (or at least personal salvation) in an “autobiographical fiction” of his 20 year collaboration with Jeffrey Kazin and their shared “sissy boy” childhoods. Misters and Sisters (continuing tonight and tomorrow at Joe’s Pub at 7pm) as part of DanceNow’s Featured Artist Series, is a delightful and earnest homage to the power of small-town dreams, crafted with razor-sharp big-city wit.
There are few among us who are better suited to develop a show for DanceNow’s programming at Joe’s Pub than Parker. He and Kazin hit all their marks (and notes) in this production that doesn’t simply try to shrink his blend of contemporary dance, tap, and ballet to the small stage, but instead offers a real cabaret wherein the artists show off their deep-rooted (albeit long-hidden in the vocal area) song and dance chops. Parker is a master of rhythmic play and compositional structures, but here gets to belt and swoon and vamp without a hint of postmodern irony. They employ the perfect mix of banter, singing, dancing, sequins, gowns, fans, bow-ties, soft-shoe, no-shoe, pointe-shoe, tap-shoe, and narrative for a splendid evening’s entertainment sprinkled with poignancy and politics. Misters and Sisters reveals how “little gay boys” putting on their own musicals, in the different Boston suburbs they grew up in unbeknownst to one another, can grow up and own up to the bourgeois mores of an “Old Fashioned Wedding,” put on their finest suits and make us laugh through a not-so-subversive (in that how could you not know what they’re saying) commentary on marriage equality. In fact, when they tap out a morse-code version of the standard marital vows during this number, it is both clever and emotionally touching. This partnership between Parker and Kazin has lasted almost three times longer than the average median duration of most American first marriages (the second ones don’t actually fare much better). The work also includes a dream ballet, or what Parker called “a precis of his 20s,” that is a wonderful reprise of the playful threesome-ness inside the The Bang Group’s origins (when Kathryn Tufano completed the trinity).
In full disclosure, I’m partial to these people and their playlist. They just presented me at their Soaking WET Series in the West End Theater and got all of my musical theater references in a Rogers & Hammestein vs 80s Rock mashup. I was raised, interestingly enough by a south-of-Boston-escapee-Irish-Catholic-Naval-Academy-grad-Vietnam-Vet father, on a steady diet of Fred Astaire, with bits of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Cyd Charisse thrown in. So, Parker, Kazin, and their dancing alter-egos, the glamorous Amber Sloan and the down-home charming Nic Petry, deliver the kind of tried and true showmanship that was also my first home before we all came Downtown (I hear the lights are brighter there). However, while Parker and Kazin perfect their own Dean and Jerry dynamic, Sloan and Petry enough provide luscious duets and solos to keep the camp in check and a whistling, slapping shift from All I Do is Dream of You into Tea for Two provides plenty of investigatory boundary stretching for any modern choreographic checklist keepers out there. So, If you need a little love song (and the singing is quite fine) to the stirrings that first fed your belief in something better than playing princess in your Own Little Corner, then grab your best pal (or any die-hard Debbie Reynolds fans in your building), get to Joe’s pub, order a Cosmo, and sing along in celebration of the land you once heard of, once in a lullaby.