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Review - Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
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Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (Curran Theater, SF – May 2006)

SHN/Best of Broadway

Reviewed by Larry Jakubecz

 

Okay, the show is called Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.  If it starred anyone other than Short... well, it would probably be someone else’s name in the title. Also, it couldn’t possibly be this much fun. So I’ll tell you right up front: this show is a blast. It’s a hoot-and-a half. It’s funny, charming, energetic, bouncy (”gimme a C... a bouncy C”) –-did I say funny?? It’s also a musical. Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me is absolutely one of the most fun times I’ve ever had in a theater while wearing underwear. There, now I’ve said too much.

 

If you don’t remember Short from his SCTV days, you’ll no doubt recall seeing him create some of his most memorable characters during his early-80’s stint on Saturday Night Live. There, we met the legendary entertainer Irving Cohen, shady lawyer Nathan Thurm and of course, Ed Grimley, the triangle-playing hyper-nerd with a turnip hairstyle. Most recently, we’ve gotten a whole lot –-and really, can it be enough? –-of Short’s weight-challenged celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick, conducting real, unpredictable chats with many a startled star. All of these characters and more appear in this 2 hour show, a tongue-in-both-cheeks celebration of “Martin Short” by... Martin Short.

 

Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me is a musical one-man show with a cast of six. The framework is moments  of Short’s life, from birth to afterlife. As things begin with “A Party with Marty” and Short tells us about his fabulous and care-free life (“I read about the world... I just can’t quite relate to it.”), one of the players tells him such stories need to reveal the trials and adversities one must eventually overcome, to savor the sweet victory of success. The problem, he says, is, he hasn’t had any hardships. So, with the show already begun, he decides to simply make stuff up. We go from his childhood imaginings to early stints on Broadway to the bottom of the barrel (“Fate caught up with him --he couldn’t handle the drugs”), where, near-comatose in a hospital bed, Short imagines his death and eulogy. Before Heaven beckons, we’re visited by scathing likenesses of Bob Fosse, Joan Rivers, Katherine Hepburn, Ellen DeGeneres and someone who looks and sounds an awful lot like the young Judy Garland. Along the way there are occasional familial interruptions and numerous sly references to pop culture landmarks of the day.

 

Standout moments –-how can one choose? –-include the Hair/Jesus Christ Superstar hybrid “Step Brother de Jesus,” auditioning for Broadway choreographers, and appearances by “Big Black Lady” Frieda Mae (Capatia Jenkins) who urges Short to keep things going, before she brings it to a close. But wait for Jiminy Glick’s turn on the stage: it’s (literally) a showstopper. In search of an actual celebrity to interview, the cast goes out into the audience and, on this night, pulled political TV host (and fellow SNL alum) Dennis Miller onto the “set” for a stinging and uproarious one-on-one. His famous acerbic wit couldn’t protect him from Glick’s sharp assault.

 

As amazing as he is, we can’t give Short all the credit. Marc Shaiman, composer of the scores to the Addams Family and City Slickers movies, as well as South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut gets major time in the spotlight here, writing the music and co-writing (with director Scott Whitman) the songs. He is also one of the cast members, bantering with Short while tickling the ivories, and even sings! No doubt about it, when the show hits Broadway in August, Shaiman’s star will rise to a new level. The rest of the cast (Brooks Ashmankas, Mary Birdsong and Nicole Parker) display their considerable talent and crack timing through a myriad of characters.

 

Martin Short is a man completely and confidently in tune with his very being. This impossibly-youthful  dude is so energetic and so clearly enjoying himself that you happily place yourself in the palm of his hand. Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me gives the audience a little snark, a little sass, a ton of laughs and even a little ass!  It transcends mere musical theater; it is no less than a perfect night of entertainment.

 

 

2006 Larry Jakubecz/Celluloid Dreams

 

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