Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Jessica Walker finds The Girl I Left Behind Me

The 59E59 Theater does a great job of bringing unique performers to its occasional Cabaret venue, and they have hit another solid winner with The Girl I Left Behind Me.  Performer / Co-creator Jessica Walker inhabits the spirit and songs of musical hall players who were male impersonators.
Jessica Walter in
The Girl I Left Behind Me
Ms. Walker tells the story of these women and the curious area they occupied as sexual beings, obviously women playing men – but singing about the joys, the beauty and the sexuality of the female form.  The practice was different and more complicated than lesbian attraction; although Ms. Walker makes clear there was some of that as well.  In societies that were uncomfortable with female sexuality, acting that same sexual tension out as a man, particularly an unconvincing one, was acceptable and often applauded.
The Girl I Left Behind Me explores the world of these women who were popular in Dance Halls and on stage from about 1860 through 1920.  This time frame means that most of these performers were unknown to most of the audience, particularly the British performers.  This unfamiliarity allows Ms. Walker to introduce the numbers and the performers to us. She gives out background details, theatrical histories and personal details that bring life and deeper meaning to the songs.
Joe Atkins plays the piano and the two work together beautifully, paring on everything from Opera’s Der Rosenkavalier to a reimagined Down By The Old Mill Stream.  The one misstep was a Harlem Blues number Baby Won't You Please Come Home, but kudos for including it with the history and story behind it.  Co-created and Directed by Neil Bartlett, the brisk show moves speedily, wrapping up with a poignant After The Ball Is Over.
Left unsaid are that many performers that have following in the tradition blazed by these trendsetters.  Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn followed many of the same paths, pushing to define a powerful female role model.  Grab a cocktail and enjoy a great little show at 59E59, The Girl I Left Behind Me.
It would be tragedy for me not to acknowledge a beautiful encore.  Ms. Walker and Mr. Atkins did a fantastic job on Take Me Home – a little heard Tom Waits number from the little seen movie, One From The Heart.  It was performed in a manner that left me a little breathless.  Bravo.
The Girl I Left Behind Me
Creators: Jessica Walker, Neil Bartlett
Director: Neil Bartlett
Cast: Jessica Walker
Pianist: Joe Atkins

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