Greek-born singer-actor George Best reprises his cabaret show, Greek Gifts, a hit in May at Don't Tell Mama, with three June dates, beginning June 3, at the New York City club.
The 50-minute performance is really a work-in-progress, Best told Playbill On-Line. He's still developing the show and adding material, in the hope that it will eventually be fleshed out to a 90-minute evening suitable for an intimate theatre, perhaps in a cabaret, small thrust space or a boite-style setting.
Boites are Greek nightspots where political satire, sketches and songs were performed.
Using songs handed down through the generations (many of them staples in Greek cabarets), Best tells an original story (in English), punctuated by rare tangos and serenades (with Greek and English lyrics), which are little-known to Greek and American audiences. Athens-bred Best, who was raised in the shadow of the Acropolis, penned English lyrics, approximating the atmosphere and sentiment of the original Greek.
"The music in the show nobody knows," Best said, adding that the accompaniment is on piano rather than traditional Greek instruments. "It took me forever to find the songs. They are songs my mother used to sing to me as a child. When you think of Greek music, you never think of tangos and serenades and waltzes, you always think of bouzouki. But this is melodic, beautiful and lyrical. The songs are from an era of Athens in a time of innocence, before it became popular to be cynical." The 34-year-old Best came to the United States when he was 18. He had been raised in culturally-diverse Athens and now lives is Astoria, Queens, home to a large Greek-American population.
"The show is about coming to America," Best said. "The plot is about looking for your home and finding your home in the most unlikely places. At the end of the story, it's how America made me a better Greek."
Musical direction and accompaniment are by Seth Weinstein.
Performances are 9 PM June 3, 7 PM June 7 and 9 PM June 15.
There is a $10 cover and a two-drink minimum. Don't Tell Mama is at 343 W. 46th St.
For reservations or information, call (212) 757-0788.
-- By Kenneth Jones