Last year's cabaret essentially recreated the stage acts from the musical Cabaret. All well and good and plenty of fun.
This year ZJU gives us something more tasty. More rich. It even harkens to one of my favorite Broadway musicals, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. We see and partake of more than just a series of musical numbers. The cast have their own dramas going on, so that in effect the backstage angst, inter-cast rivalries and stories spill out in front of the audience. Starting with the MC having gone missing as the proverbial curtain rises. How that plays out proves quite fun and I won't spoil it for you.
Musical numbers do include three from Cabaret but also a couple from Chicago including a very neatly re-imagined "Cell Block Tango." The space used remains small and the use of its black box works very well. Likewise the various numbers are all good, many of them startling, one (a striptease) actually disturbing in a way that shouldn't be funny yet somehow was. The final number, likewise, provoked laughs--although exactly why I'm still not sure.
This last is not a criticism. Not at all. I like to be intrigued.
I attended the premiere and maybe there were a few opening night jitters. Another, not mutually exclusive possibility, is that these two by necessity lacked as much precise direction as the rest of the cast. Directing oneself--not an easy task!
I might even take my friend who was in last year's show. She seemed interested, even when I said Down & Dirty was better than her own (quite fun) revue.
The rest of the cast are Joanna Bartling, Paige O'Malley, Gracy Ramirez, Annalee Scott (who also did vocal directions--the results quite impressive), Natalie Stevie, Jade Waters-Burch and Corey Zicari. All of the above spend most of the show (or at least a significant part of it) in lacy women's underwear. Including Mr. Alonzo. He doesn't quite have the legs for it but he carries it off--actually the more impressive accomplishment.
Down & Dirty (Miss Vanessa Cate's Dark & Sexy Neo-Retro Cabaret) plays August 4 through September 15 unless it gets extended (the premiere was almost standing room only, so that remains possible), Saturdays at 11pm. The delightful show lasts approximately one hour, with tickets $15 each. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group is at 4850 Lankershim Boulevard (a little south of the NoHo sign). Box office is (818) 202-4120.