Performers sang, danced and joked at the Marriage Equality Cabaret on Feb. 4.
Advocacy and the arts merged this past Saturday, Feb. 4 for Five-Minute Follies’ Marriage Equality Cabaret.
All of the money raised in ticket sales went directly to Freedom to Marry, a campaign that is attempting to bring marriage equality to GLBT Americans on a national scale.
“I have to be honest, every time somebody asks me about this my first thought is, ‘Why the hell are we still talking about marriage equality in 2012, or 2000 or 1980? I just don’t understand this,’” Michael Broussard, founder of Five-Minute Follies, said. “For me the cause is, ‘It’s too late, it should have happened a long time ago.’”
Broussard said he hoped that the cabaret would not only draw attention to marriage equality, but also bring back the lost traditions of vaudeville and variety shows.
“The idea behind it is an old-fashion variety show you would see on television in the 1960s and ‘70s like Ed Sullivan. I think we lost that, it’s not on television anymore, and that was the only remnant we had of vaudeville,” Broussard said.
“Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re on a tight budget to be able to just send your money but if you can have a little fun and have a good night out while your money is going towards a good cause, it makes it easier for me to make sense of it in my budget,” said audience member Shanna Tedeschi, a teacher at Arden Theater Company.
Brotherly Love, a group within Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus opened the show with two songs. The group was also promoting their upcoming show, Pearl Necklace.
A wide range of performances were featured throughout the cabaret, from stand up comedian Robb Coles to Temple alumnus Nathan Nolen Edwards – musical theater, class of 2011 – to Buddy Holly impersonator Ed Marra.
Stand-up comedian Jess Carpenter, received positive audience feedback for his routine where he joked about his experience growing up with born-again Christian parents who actually named him Jesus Carpenter. Another highlight in the routine was when he reminisced about his high school girlfriend throwing him a gay intervention and all of the red flags he should have seen in his lifetime to figure out he was gay, himself.
The Parodivas, a comedy duo based in New York, also received praise from the audience with their parodies, “Shut Up and Let Me Blow,” a play off of The Ting Tings’ “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” and “I Cut Myself,” parodying “I Touch Myself” originally by Devinyls.
“Tonight I’m performing two songs, one is called “Mess of Me” and that’s kind of a coming out song,” said singer-songwriter Crystal Cheatham. “The second song is a proposal song I haven’t quite named yet, but I’m singing it for my friend’s proposal next week so it’s great I got to write it and perform it here tonight.”
Cheatham’s performance was one of the more talked about of the night.
“When people make themselves so vulnerable in front of a number of strangers about their deepest passions it’s very moving,” Evelyn Shober, a nurse practitioner attending the cabaret, said.
“[Cheatham] had the audience wrapped around her finger,” said Michael Liang, a graphic designer who accompanied Shober to the show. “I leaned over and whispered to Evelyn [Shober,] ‘this is so amazing, she’s so good.’”
The Bearded Ladies, an experimental cabaret group, was represented through two separate performances. The first was a comedy sketch featuring Bearded Ladies’ John Jarboe, and Dito van Reigersberg of Pig Iron Theatre and Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret fame. The two played soldiers expressing their desire to marry each other now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, and their frustrations with not being able to get married in most states.
Jarboe and the rest of The Bearded Ladies returned to the stage for the finale to perform an excerpt of their show “No Regrets: A Piaf Affair.” Jarboe, in drag, plays Piaf.
Broussard invited The Bearded Ladies after having seen their show with his wife.
“We’re huge Edith Piaf fans and we were in tears, it was so amazing,” Broussard said.
The premise of “No Regrets” revolves around French singer Edith Piaf returning from the dead and being upset that marriage equality is still an issue, since, according to the show, everyone in the afterlife is gay.
“I think that this is an amazing thing and I think performance groups and larger organizations in Philadelphia like the larger theaters should work harder to do things that support worthy causes like this,” Jarboe said.
“I just want them to be angry about the gays not getting their rights. I want them to be super angry and I want them to leave here and do something. Not just say, ‘I bought this ticket, and I got a show and I actually also happened to have an effect on the gay rights movement. I want them to get up after this and be motivated to do something,” Jarboe added.
“Most of the time when you see gay marriage being talked about in politics it’s through angry protest signs and through congressmen on the floor of the senate, and so to see it in the performing arts setting is different,” Liang said. “I think there’s more of an emotional connection.”
“You’re not really changing minds, but with this kind of thing you can light a fire under people and make them feel that surge of emotion when they see something presented in song form and it just knocks them over,” Broussard said. “Suddenly they want to get active, suddenly they want to march in a rally, they want to start writing letters, they want to make phone calls.”
“I just want them to walk away with a feeling that it was a warm night in favor of love, because that’s really what it was all about,” Broussard added.
Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.