Carolin’ Carolynne’s Comin’ To Town
By Jill Gillmer
Is it just me, or does the title Carolin’ Carolynne splashed across a red-and-green banner suggest that this holiday revue might include a few Christmas carols? This was how I convinced my elderly aunt and mother to accompany me to the performance. When I found myself waiting for the first carol nearly an hour into the show, I realized that Carolynne was going to make a liar out of me, despite the creative arrangement of Silent Night (with different lyrics) and a few bars of one or two other Christmas favorites sprinkled between non-holiday songs.
But the “rollicking tunes” featured in the Stackner Cabaret’s holiday production were more appropriate for a Holiday Booze Cruise – I mean Blues Cruise – than a Sunday afternoon with conservative relatives. Once I got past the disappointment of a carol-free performance, though, I was able to enjoy the ride.
Billed as a vacation for those suffering from holiday-related depression, Carolynne Warren’s one-woman show features a series of wacky characters gently coaxing the audience out of its melancholy with a charming array of songs and skits. Its success isn’t due to the humor in the writing – indeed, much of the comedy borders on slapstick. Nor is it because of Ms. Warren’s average singing voice. Carolynne Warren is a hit with audiences because of the warmth and compassion she obviously feels for the characters she’s penned. One stand-out is a mermaid/Genie in a Bottle/vixen who addresses the lovelorn souls who unfortunately sought her advice. In another scene, a therapist enthusiastically espouses the virtues of anti-depressants over psycho-therapy. As a writer, Ms. Warren has a special gift for tapping the humor and sadness that coexist in the human heart. And it’s hard not to identify with at least one or two of the pathetic ballads she croons as the potential Soundtrack of Your Life.
Ms. Warren’s piano accompanist, the immensely talented William Knowles, adds a calming balance to her frenetic energy. The many costume changes and creatively-rewritten songs keep the pace lively. All in all, it’s not a bad way to cure your holiday malaise. VS
Carolin’ Carrolynne’s Comin’ to Town runs through January 6 at the Stackner Cabaret. For tickets and information, contact (414) 224-9490 or visit www.milwaukeerep.com.