Pity the poor folks who wrote off 20th Anniversary Cabaret Gala Saturday night at the Fairmont’s Venetian Room because they thought it was going to be a wrinkled songstress crooning tunes from a bygone era. Lucky were those who were charmed, tantalized and blown away by cabaret singer/comedian/vixen Emily Bergl benefiting the Dallas Children’s Theater.
Word had been filtering down via word of mouth and internet that Emily was part of a newer wave of cabaret performers. Imagine Tinker Bell figure, Bette Midler sass, Lady Gaga brass and Marilyn Monroe flirt. Now, you’re thinking Emily.
The New Yorker who was familiar to many in the audience from her days on “Desperate Housewives” sang, mugged collapsing on stage, ventured out into the audience and unlayered her wardrobe throughout her performance. Yee-haw!
NOTE: For a review of the show, check out The Flash List.
The evening started off with a cocktail reception in the lobby outside the Venetian Room. It was an interesting blend of Cabaret Gala vets (Barbara Brice, Kent Perkins, Carolyn Lupton and Mayo Crum) and youngsters (Margaret and Lester Keliher, Mary and Robert Wilonsky, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Julianna and Chris LeBlanc, Ailsa Hurley, Julie Lloyd and Heather Hayes and Jeff Roberts ).
Once the doors opened to the Venetian Room, guests were more than pleased to see a receiving line. Oh, one of those? What’s so great about that? Well, it was short, just two people, but what a pair: local resident/”Laugh-In” vet Ruth Buzzi and Dallas Children’s Theater/Gala Producer Artie Olaisen. These two alone were worth the price of the ticket. No wonder the receiving line didn’t move like a horse race at Lone Star Park! When someone asked, “How many people ask you where your purse is?,” referring to her “Laugh-In” role, itty-bitty comedienne Ruth responded, “If I had $1 for everyone. . . not $5. . . ”
Once inside, guests took their places at tables decked out with plates of bite-sized appetizers and desserts and flutes of champagne. In the center of each table was a bucket with reinforcements for the flutes.
At a front-row table was Kate Kuether, who just moved to Dallas from New York, where her accomplishments included appearing as Meg in “Phantom of the Opera.” She and husband John, who was also a “Phantom” vet, are now associated with Park Cities Dance.
Before Emily with her pianist G. Scott Lacey and Daniel Fabricant on bass/ukulele were introduced, Gala Chair Yvonne Crum (this is her fifth time chairing the event) and Marisa Huckin welcomed the group and thanked special friends (i.e. underwriters, sponsors, donors). Marisa told the audience “I’m only here because glasses would have spoiled Yvonne’s outfit!”
Then it was time for the raffle drawing. For that Artie held the glass bowl with tickets and Ruth did the drawing. When the name was drawn for the trip to Santa Fe, there was a brief eyebrow raising among Artie, Marisa and Yvonne. Then they announced, “Ruth Buzzi!” Without missing a beat, Ruthie mugged, “I’m going to Santa Fe!”
Artie then took over the mic, introducing Emily. When he recalled having met her last year in New York, it was pretty darn obvious that he was smitten as he described her as “a bubbly, exquisite person. . . fresh, fun, sexy … [with] a smart way with a song.”
All of those points came out the moment the blonde arrived on stage in a soft lavender floor-length evening gown. As she sang “I’ll Take Manhattan,” “Mad About The Boy” and others, one song had Emily on the floor, saying, “That’s the first time I’ve ever been on the floor in Dallas, and it may not be the last.”
After another song, a member of the audience was heard to say instead of “Brava,” “Yee-Haw!” Immediately, Emily with an eyebrow raised responded, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard ‘yee-haw’ at one of my cabaret shows before.”
Introducing another song, she described it as being from the 1920′s and 30′s, “when ladies wore gloves, men wore hats, and people had the attention span to listen to entire f*****g songs.” Warned you that she had some Midler in her.
As Emily continued her repertoire including “It Had To Be You,” “Ten Cents a Dance,” “Crying,” “Material Girl” and others that included eliciting audience participation, layers of her dress seemed to disappear until she was down to a flesh-colored body suit. One of the layers was caught by Yvonne, who put it on for a brief stint on stage with Emily.
At the very end of the performance, Emily thanked Hollywood Floral for the big floral arrangement saying “EB” in the entry to the Venetian Room.
Brought back for an encore, she finished her stage performance with Mama Cass’s “Dream A Little Dream Of Me.”
Cabaret may seem like something from the past, but it’s the perfect venue for an entertainer like Emily, who thrives in an intimate setting to the delight of the audience.