Take it from this old broad, Broads, 1812 Productions’ new show, is an entertaining 75 minutes—if you like funny songs and dirty jokes. Jennifer Childs’s latest installment in her “Women and Comedy Project,” Broads follows a 2019 version of the same show which, in turn was preceded by Always a Lady” and “It’s My Party.” From the company dedicated to comedy, these feminist cabarets are a happy tip of the hat to the grand old dames who made people laugh many decades ago.
The show begins with feather boas and fake furs, and the three actors—Melanye Finister, Rebecca Robbins, and Mary Elizabeth Scallen—all dressed in peculiar costumes—belting “Let Me Entertain You.” And they do. Mark Randall accompanies them on the onstage piano.
First to be celebrated: the Queen of the One-Liners, Mae West, proving with a naughty wink, “It’s not what I say, it’s how I say it.” And that may be a crucial difference between this old-time comedy and far more explicit contemporary comedy.
Next, Moms Mabley, raunchy and funny, who played the Apollo theater and fifty years later played Carnegie Hall, wearing her goofy hat and baggy housedress. She explains why nursery rhymes are responsible for the death of her brother: “Ding dong dell/Pussy’s in the well.” She also complains about one of her many husbands: “He was so ugly, he hurt my feelings.”
What a crowd—from the Dirty Blues a song about spinach: “I didn’t like it the first time/But oh how it grew on me.”—to Saucy Sylvia, not so very saucy, but then, “she was Canadian.”
The legendary Sophie Tucker, the last of the red hot mamas, a fat woman ahead of her time, makes a necessary appearance. And just to make the point, the three women sing, “You Don’t Own Me” as a final number.
[1812 Productions at Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey Place] January 26-February 26, 2023; 1812productions.org