Oh They Could Sell It

An Evening of Song at Denver Public Library

I looked around me.  I kept thinking I was going to make a comment to someone next to me — a friend, or my theater-mad relatives — but of course that wasn’t possible.  I had gone to the show alone.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Part of the reason for that was I only found out about it approximately twenty-four hours before it was set to take place.  My discovery was a total accident — a concert? at the library?  It would never have occurred to me.

The description sounded like a gas: “songs with the flirt built in.”  The program featured songs from the 30s through the 50s, with lyrics crafted to duck censors and standard bearers of the appropriate.  The setlist (provided below) reveled in examples of bawdy humor and sly digs at the foibles of human relationships.  And best of all — it was free!

It was too outrageous to pass up.

I turned up at the top level of the Denver Central Library early.  Balloons were scattered festively across the floor, and paintings along the gallery walls added to the color (and artistic je ne sais quoi).  A group in period-ready dresses and heels chatted off to the side — these, I presumed correctly, were the performers.  Well — most of them.  A few fashionable ladies broke off from the group later to join us in the audience.  A phalanx of black plastic chairs filled the space that opened from the center of the main gallery, and I easily found a seat.  Had I come much later, it would have been a different story: nearly every seat was taken; of all ages and dressed in all kinds of ways — including the aforementioned ladies in costume solidarity.

The 8 female performers were decked out in a set of amazing ruffles, bodices, and gowns of every description, and the 2 male “backup” singers were resplendent in tuxedos.  All of the ladies (but none of the men) went through costume changes throughout the evening.  I don’t know where — but we were all so distracted by what was happening on “stage” that I suppose they could have swapped kit in the gallery itself and we never would have noticed.  Everybody could sing — or play.  The performance was backed by a band consisting of piano, upright bass/ukelele, and drums.  In keeping with the tenor of the show, which was arranged as one extended series of sketches holding together the musical numbers, the musicians were drawn into and became a part of the performances.

Numbers included sultry songs such as “A Man What Takes His Time,” show tunes, such as “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls, naughty flirts like “Always True to You,” and jazzy numbers like “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” and “When You’re Good to Mama.”  Most of the numbers were solo spots, a few were duets or trios; some had chorus, and a big group number concluded the show: “I’m Tired.”  The audience, though, was definitely NOT tired.  My personal favorite was “If I Can’t Sell It,” a naughty way to play with the paradigm of marriage as a financial transaction between a man and a woman.  That’s right, Mae West!

It’s becoming less and less of a surprise to me, the more performances I see, of any kind, that everyone seems to have so many talents.  Once you get started, it’s contagious, I think.  Singing means dancing means acting means creating stories…

I wasn’t the only one laughing and applauding uproariously throughout the evening, and I wasn’t the only one standing for the ovation at the end, either.  A good time was had by all.

So kudos to the events programming at the library.  The library as performance space — who knew?  But it was brilliant.  And kudos to all the performers, who really threw themselves into it, purely out of joy — their work for the event was all “volunteer.”  A show absolutely worth paying for.

Have you been to any good shows lately?

Setlist for Wink! Songs with the flirt built in:
The Girl in 14G
Come Ona My House
Frim Fram Sauce
A Man What Takes His Time
I Enjoy Being a Girl
Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby
Always True to You
Adelaide’s Lament
One Hour Mama
Whatever Lola Wants
Mambo Italiano
If I Can’t Sell It
Mop Song
My Handyman
Nobody Makes a Pass at Me
When You’re Good to Mama
My Heart Belongs to Daddy
Too Old To Cut the Mustard Anymore
Love For Sale
Glitter and Be Gay
I’m Tired

Vocalists: Jennifer Adams, Marta Burton, Elizabeth Caswell-Dyer, Abbi Chapman, Dee Galloway, Ken Parks, Chuck Stevenson, Nancy Stohlman, Cora Vette, Marnie Ward
Piano: Nick Busheff
Bass and Ukelele: Mike Fitzmaurice
Drums: Ed Contreras
Written and Directed by Marta Burton

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