Last Saturday night at The Duplex, I was treated to a thoroughly delightful evening of low-down, dirty blues. It was a show called “Rev. Mary in One Hour MAMA featuring Granny’s Blue-mers” and it has been touring the Metropolitan area with rising success. It stars the fantastic singer-actress-comedienne Mary Elizabeth Micari as “Rev. Mary”, a sort of unique Red Hot Mama who is also an expert interpreter of dirty blues and vintage songs with enough innuendo to easily fill the Duplex stage that years ago would definitely have been classified as “filthy” by the censors. As portrayed by Ms. Micari, who is outrageously gowned with a curly white wig, “Rev. Mary” is a combination of Sophie Tucker, Mae West, with a little bit of Bette Midler and Sharon McNight thrown in. The show focuses on empowerment of women, especially African American women from the turn of the century through the Second World War. At this time, African American women had to face not only racial discrimination but also sexism. Through Ms. Micari’s songs and patter, we learn the names of several female African American blues singers who fought this double prejudice by interpreting their songs in an aggressive manner and gradually creating their identities as down and dirty “Red Hot Mamas”. With the exception of Bessie Smith, many of these women’s names may very well be unfamiliar to today’s audiences like Virginia Liston, Julia Lee, Memphis Minnie, Lil Johnson, and Victoria Spivey. But no matter. Mary Elizabeth Micari brings these women back to life with their songs through her sterling performance. She is absolutely superb. Ms. Micari has found the perfect vehicle to utilize her great talents. She is so wickedly suggestive that she can not only belt her bawdy songs but she can growl, purr, as well as conjure up a perfect soprano tone and still convey the songs meanings and undertones. And as “Rev.Mary”, she succeeds in playfully flirting with the audience and bringing them with her on this raucous musical ride. (She even plays the washboard!!) And they, in turn, respond with much deserved laughter and cheers. Among the songs are “One Hour Mama”, “The Empty Bed Blues”, “Do Your Duty”, “Down In The Alley, “Sugar In My Bowl”, and “You Gotta See Mama.”
Ms. Micari is surrounded by an A-list roster of musicians and performers who make up “Rev. Mary’s Granny’s Blue-mers” – Rachel Kaufman on piano and harmonica; Andrew Beall on percussion; Singer Lauren Elder who also plays guitar and sings two songs – “You’ve Got The Right Key But The Wrong Keyhole” and “Stavin Chain”; and singer Mario Claudio, who along with Ms. Elder provides Ms. Micari with superb vocal backup. Director Jay Michaels deserves kudos for not only recreating an important period of history that has been largely overlooked but also for producing this marvelous showcase for Mary Elizabeth Micari. Ms. Micari literally brings this show to tremendous heights. I was completely blown away. This show not only needs to be performed again but also deserves a long run in a cabaret venue. I am thrilled to report that “Rev. Mary in One Hour MAMA” will be reprised on Friday, November 17, 2017 at 9:00 P.M. at The West End Lounge located at 955 West End Avenue (between 106th & 107th Street) in Manhattan. For more information, email JMAE.EVENTS@gmail.com or JayMichaelsArts.com. Please Go and See This Show Next Month!! It is fabulous and a magnificent tour-de-force for Mary Elizabeth Micari!! Bravo to her, Jay Michaels, and the entire company for this outstanding artistic achievement. And also a great round of applause to Thomas Honeck and his staff at The Duplex for their warm welcome and hospitality.