Starring Meow Meow
Ringling International Arts Festival
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts
Mertz Theatre, Sarasota, Oct. 8-15, 2009

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

A partnership between The Baryshnikov Arts Center of New York and the Ringling Museum of Art brought the first of what plans to be a significant biennial Ringling International Arts Festival to mid-October '09 Sarasota. Florida State University, administrator of the expansive Ringling Museum complex, also afforded the Festival its Historic Asolo Theatre and its Mertz and Cook venues in FSU Center for the Performing Arts with the cooperation of residents Asolo Repertory Theatre and FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training as well as fine local musical groups. But wherever you saw media publicity, brochures, posters and programs for the Festival, you'd be led to think all was headlined by the so-called post-post-modern showgirl Meow Meow.

Awaited on a stage swathed in black velvet, with fuschia spots on accompanists and a vase of flowers, Meow Meow came in from the audience, supposedly breathless from just making it down from Tampa. Enlisting male help in unzipping (shades of Gypsy Rose Lee, but without her class) all but her black haltered gown, Meow Meow climbed up on red heels to center stage. There she caressed (like another MM) a microphone, while made up like Liza Minelli's Sally Bowles but with even more sparkles on her eyelids and jet hair frizzed out like Elsa Lancaster as Frankenstein's bride. Setting out lyrically on "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," the derivative diva essayed ditties in accented, hard to make out Italian and Brel's Belgian French in between audience participation on and off stage. As a matter of fact, she threw herself to be carried bust-forward all the way through the first floor audience: "This is why we're watching the theatre and not television." (Mezzanine and balcony viewers be damned!)  

Too bad she didn't just sing, as her voice isn't bad. But no. Some silly dancing: "I much prefer amateurs." Removal of falsies. (There's a variation of this in an encore where Meow Meow donned a Madonna like flower-laden bra, then a corset and split skirt.) Lots of  touchy-feely, but no empathy for a "thoroughly white bread audience" or older people watching impassively. Could you help it if you've seen and heard it all before?  Often on cruise ships. As for the punk--not "Beyond Glamour" but the real thing.

Meow Meow made a big deal of having performed in London, Sydney, Paris and now being...where? Clearly, you were either an inexperienced-with-theatre youth-to-middle-ager thrilled to have her do something new to you (standing ovation, posing for pix in the lobby) or you knew better but behaved politely (silent departure). Meow Meow did have two big advantages with both types of audience: Lance Horne on piano and Yair Evnine with cello. Theirs is a purr-fect fit for Paris the venue of the Musee Grevin.

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