Leslie Kritzer's Beautiful Disaster Hits Joe's Pub
By Carey Purcell
A blast from the past, dressed in flannel and Doc Martens, blew into Joe's Pub, where Leslie Kritzer performed her one-woman show Beautiful Disaster. Playbill.com attended the May 13 performance and chatted with Kritzer afterwards.
In Beautiful Disaster Kritzer recounts her tumultuous senior year of high school. The sarcastic and heartfelt show transports audience members back in time to 1995, as a voice-over states, "Before Lena Dunham became Jesus...Before anyone cared about what you wrote on your social media...Before Russell Crowe ruined Les Miserables."
Krizter, who has performed in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions (The Memory Show, Elf, Legally Blonde, A Catered Affair, Sondheim on Sondheim and Hairspray), co-wrote Beautiful Disaster with director Randy Blair (Fat Camp, Perez Hilton Saves the Universe, Spidermusical). Performed with a band (Alec Berlin, Mark Vander Poel, Jay Mack and Vadim Feichtner) and two back-up singers (Hilaire C. Smith and Sydney Angel), the show plunges straight into what Kritzer says was the most important day of her life: the day she auditioned for her school production of West Side Story. A senior in high school and obsessed with musical theatre, Kritzer wanted the role of Maria. And, she didn't get it.
This disappointment, combined with her parents' messy divorce and prospects of college looking dim, led into a downward spiral for Kritzer. Her grades and friendships suffered, she almost didn't graduate, and she was caught stealing from her classmates' gym lockers. Kritzer combines humor with pain, and sarcasm with sincerity, while telling a story of adolescent drama and angst that most everyone can relate to.
Narrated by Kritzer, who switches seamlessly from one character to another, Beautiful Disaster is performed in an old-fashioned cabaret style. It cleverly juxtaposes the idea of a glamorous woman in a sparkling gown lounging on a piano with an angry teenager in faded flannel as Kritzer ascends the onstage piano, thudding heavily in her velour dress and Doc Martens. She interacts with the audience throughout the night, teasing and winking at people and helping herself to the french fries and water from the front-row tables.
Popular songs from the 1980s and 90s are part of Kritzer's story as well. She opens the show by belting "Eye of the Tiger," portraying the fierce and frantic energy she felt as a teenager who wanted to be a star. Yearbook photos of everyone she talks about are projected onstage. (While many of her classmates' yearbook photos had inspirational quotes printed underneath them, Kritzer's said, "Here she is, boys. Here she is, world. Here's ROSE!" from Gypsy.) "Wig in a Box" from Hedwig and the Angry Itch illustrated her desire to pretend she was someone else, and an intense rendition of Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" portrayed her mother's rage at her father about their divorce.
While Beautiful Disaster was thoroughly entertaining, the show also contained elements of real sadness. Her parents' divorce was obviously extremely complicated, and it was clear Kritzer felt torn between her mother and father while trapped in her hometown with no escape in sight. Whether she was describing binge-eating Taco Bell with her "best gay" or finally asking her father for help with getting in to college, the audience went on a journey with her, constantly laughing and cheering, even when Kritzer concluded the show by saying, "Anyone from my high school: I'm sorry, but not sorry."
"It's a very freeing experience," Kritzer said of Beautiful Disaster after the performance. "It was hard to go there, but very freeing. We hold onto things—if we can learn from them, we can let them go. This releases it and shows me things do happen for a reason.
"There is life after. I wasn't the star of my high school, but I turned out ok!" she said laughing. "This is a way to let go."
May 13 was the last performance of Beautiful Disaster at Joe's Pub. Kritzer said she hopes to move it to a more theatrical venue in the future and to expand the show further, saying, "The possibilities are endless."
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