. . . turned out to be the SpeakEasy Stage benefit, "Sorry, Wrong Number," which closed, alas, last night. The show was billed as a rare chance for local stars to perform roles they'd never be cast in, which was true, in its way - but obviously a guiding directorial hand had shaped the program and choices. Under the deadpan guidance of emcee Larry Coen (and with the tireless Paul Katz at the piano), the evening had a fun, letting-our-hair down vibe; this was an evening for musical theatre queens in both senses of the term: the gay boys dropped whatever remained of their straight personae, the straight boys played along, and the women either camped it up or decamped to play the leading man. Before you say it, people switched races as well as sexes, and Kathy St. George even rapped (briefly!).
What was also palpable was a devotion to craft even in the middle of the in-jokey, just-us-girls atmosphere (perhaps because of the in-jokey, just-us-girls atmosphere) - along with a genuinely affectionate attitude toward SpeakEasy and all the opportunities that company has given these talented folks. It was, all in all, the best time I've had in a theatre so far this season - and maybe all year. Every act was delectable, but I have to toss a few extra laurels to Bridget Beirne and Brendan McNab, who together drove a hilarious stake through the hollow, manipulative heart of Les Miz, and Aimee Doherty and Brian Richard Robinson, who did the same for the relentlessly "sensitive" Rent. The Best Ensemble Award (Legs Division) has to go to the talented boys (Jordan Fife Hunt, Jaime Cepero, Bud Weber, DJ Petrosino) from Zanna, Don't!, who performed a rousing rendition of "My Body" from The Life, while Timothy Smith nabbed the Best Gender Switcheroo Award for "I Cain't Say No." Other highlights included Will McGarrahan's almost creepily sweet "Getting to Know You" (which morphed into an audience singalong), Kathy St. George's "Ain't Misbehavin'," and Mary Callanan's "Nothing" - St. George and Callanan returned near the finish for a screamingly funny parody of the famous Streisand/Garland rendition of "Get Happy." Only everybody was pretty happy already.