Playbill.com in Provincetown: Patti LuPone, Sandra Bernhard, Christine Ebersole and More Perform By the Sea

By Ben Rimalower
July 3, 2013

Writer-actor-director Ben Rimalower rounds up the best theatre, cabaret and drag stars performing off the beaten path in Provincetown for Playbill.com.



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Ever since I read William J. Mann's evocative "The Men From The Boys," Provincetown has called out to me. I remember my gay uncle and his partner tantalizing me with stories of seeing an array of fabulous cabaret performances there by everyone from Eartha Kitt to Lea DeLaria. I finally got to go last July 4 when the stakes were too high to overlook: Patti LuPone was doing an informal interview/concert with Seth Rudetsky at Provincetown's Art House Theatre, and there were rumors flying that she'd perform material from Evita she hadn't touched in 30 years. I knew I had to get there.

Luckily, my friends had an apartment for the week and graciously invited me to crash on their couch. The trip was a little rough for a 24-hour tour, but surprisingly inexpensive and easy to arrange: I took the Bolt Bus to Boston and caught the express ferry to Provincetown Harbor. And I don't need to tell you Patti's show was worth the trip. You can download the entire thing on SethTV.com.

LuPone recreating Broadway history aside, 24 hours was enough for me to fall in love with Provincetown, and I was heartbroken to leave. Where would I rather be in the summer than a charming seaside town bursting at the seams with world-class cabaret and LGBT pride (so, basically, just world-class cabaret)? I happened to have just that week discovered on YouTube the genius that is Dina Martina, and wouldn't you know she was performing the next night at the Crown & Anchor? But I had to get back to work — and not overstay my welcome on my friends' couch.

When my solo play, Patti Issues, opened at the Duplex last August, my sights were very quickly set on finding a way to perform in Provincetown this summer. And guess what? I'm performing Patti Issues at the Crown & Anchor July 2, 3 and 5 and Aug. 4 as a benefit the Family Equality Council, as part of Family Week. When I looked at the roster for everyone else playing at the Crown & Anchor this summer, not to mention Seth Rudetsky's star-studded Broadway at the Art House series, my luxurious week-long trip to Provincetown suddenly seemed too short. I wish I could stay for the whole summer.

In a sort of Playbill.com transposing of "The Secret," I am going to pretend that I do get to spend the entire season in Provincetown and tell you all the wonderful shows I am going to see!

Sutton Foster
Photo by Laura Marie Duncan

July 2-3, I'll spend at the Crown & Anchor doing Patti Issues, and on July 4 I'll be front row at the Art House for two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster's show with Seth Rudetsky. July 5, it's back to the Crown & Anchor for more Patti Issues, then July 6 it's a double feature at the Crown & Anchor with the incisive and hilarious political comedian Kate Clinton at 7 PM and Dina Martina's outrageous shenanigans at 9 PM. Lucky for me, Dina's bizarre fusion of Snow White and Jabba the Hutt is in residence at the Crown & Anchor all summer, and I'm going to enjoy that laugh riot again and again before the days grow short. July 7, I will be catching art drag legend/legit jazz masters Joey Arias and Raven-O in their show, Wanted Live.

July 8, I'll catch Sandra Bernhard's return engagement at the Crown & Anchor. I'm a huge fan of Sandra Bernhard's social commentary, comedy and diva song styling. Her albums are in constant rotation in my iTunes, and her numerous landmark live-recorded solo shows have a been a huge inspiration to me in creating Patti Issues. If you had told me a year ago I'd be performing on the same stage as the woman who gave us "Without You, I'm Nothing," "I'm Still Here Damn It!," "Excuses for Bad Behavior," "Excuses for Bad Behavior Part Two," "The Love Machine," and on and on through her latest, "I Love Being Me, Don't You?" I would have jumped for joy. Needless to say, I am extremely excited to catch her latest. Hell, I'm going back to catch her second show the next night. Why not?

Audra McDonald
Photo by Autumn de Wilde

July 10, I might check out comedian Jessica Kirson at the Crown & Anchor, and then I'll make sure to get my rest, because on July 11 "downtown" dynamo Bridget Everett brings her ferocious hilarity and musical fierceness to the Crown & Anchor. Everett is maybe the most exciting performer on any stage anywhere — she's certainly the most uninhibited and willing to keep the audience guessing — all of which is to say nothing of her voice, which is (to borrow her own self-praise), "the voice of an angel." Don't miss her new single, "Titties," on iTunes.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll take it easy, enjoying the romantic sunsets and languid pace of beach days, lobster rolls, crab cakes and pastries from the Portuguese bakeries. I'll also check out some more recurring shows. There's the crazy brilliant Varla Jean Merman at the Art House, almost every night at 9 PM, all summer. You haven't lived until you've seen Varla Jean squirt Cheez Whiz down her throat while trilling a soprano version of "Dream A Little Dream of Me." At my homebase, the Crown & Anchor, there's nationally-beloved superstar drag queen Miss Richfield 1981 slaying them in the aisles every Wednesday-Sunday at 9 PM, and long-running drag revue Illusions, which is like candy for diva lovers.

July 18-19, I won't want to miss one of the founding fathers of gay culture, Tales of the City scribe Armistead Maupin in conversation at the Crown & Anchor. It's back to the Art House July 21-22 for five-time Tony Award-winning Broadway uber-star Audra McDonald in concert and conversation with Seth Rudetsky. There are few performers with the depth, beauty, integrity and class of McDonald, but the addition of Rudetsky and his relentless pursuit of belting makes me think we might get to see another side of the Juilliard-trained soprano this time around.

July 23, I'll be back at "the Crown" (considering we're now three weeks into my seeing several shows a week at the venue, I think it's only fair I should get to use the nickname!) for Off-Broadway's hit comedy, Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche. I like lesbians. I like quiche. I can't imagine that's not gonna be a good time. July 24, I'll stick around the Crown to enjoy the powerful vocals of New York cabaret star Anne Steele, followed by hilarious and charming southern belle of a man, Leslie Jordan, July 29-30.

Linda Eder

August 3-4 brings Sam Harris to the Art House for more of the brilliance he just exhibited at 54 Below in New York. I hope he'll share another chapter of his dishy and wise memoir, "Ham: Slices of A Life," due out in January from Gallery Books. August 7-9 and 14-16, the Crown & Anchor welcomes Tony nominee and cabaret goddess Sharon McKnight for some gutsy, soulful introspection mixed with sass. And at the Art House Aug. 8-10, I'll be getting goose bumps all over again from the legendary Marilyn Maye, an 80-something spitfire whose belting and musicality and general joy for living could charm the husk right off of corn. If it's belting you like, then Aug. 12-13 is the moment for someone like you to join me at the Crown & Anchor for Linda Eder. Need I say more? Beltier still will be Natalie Joy Johnson and Brian Nash at the Crown Aug. 14-15. Natalie and Brian seem to make music from their souls, which judging by their music, must be really big souls! This is another one I'll enjoy more than once.

You know I won't miss two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole's brilliance at the Art House Aug. 17-18. I'm excited to see her with Seth Rudetsky. I hope he makes her sing "The Music That Makes Me Dance," like she did on Michael Feinstein's American Songbook on PBS. Sublime!

The end of summer at the Crown & Anchor will be a busy time for me, with such great acts to catch as international air hostess parodist Pam Ann (Aug. 19-20), Paula Poundstone (two shows Aug. 25), and the LOL-inducing dizzy drag queen with the legit musical theatre vocal chops, Paige Turner Aug. 20-23. August 26-27, I'll be reveling in the absolutely essential Provincetown act, "drag-apella" superstars, The Kinsey Sicks, in their new show, America's Next Top Bachelor Housewife Celebrity Hoarder Makeover Star! The Kinseys are just genius, combining incisive song parodies with musicality and style far beyond the call of duty for such funny — not to mention edgy and interesting — performances. You'll laugh at the punchlines and then spend days singing the melodies to yourself. About a week after that, you'll realize they made you think about a political issue. I can't wait to take the whole ride again.

Megan Hilty
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Giving several performances Aug. 28-Sept. 5 will be Miss Coco Peru, the drag paragon of manners and taste, and Sept. 3 will bring a very special concert by Roslyn Kind.

Meanwhile, the end of summer at the Art House brings the mammoth talents of the Megans: Hilty (Aug. 24 and 25) and Mullally (Aug. 28-29) to share the stage with Seth Rudetsky, and then Broadway icon Chita Rivera Sept. 7-8. And, to bring it all full circle, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, the Art House will welcome back the divine Patti LuPone. Based on reports of her recent London shows with Rudetsky, their act has gotten — believe it or not — even more excitingly mind-blowing than last summer in Provincetown. Did you watch that video of Patti singing "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard for the first time in 20 years?

The perfect end to the summer is the aptly named Afterglow Festival Sept. 9-15, which brings some of the world's edgiest and most innovative cabaret, theatre and performance artists to the Crown & Anchor. I'm especially excited for playwright-songwriter-performer-activist-philosopher extraordinaire Dan Fishback's Socialist Queer Utopia Family Circus, downtown darlings Molly Pope and Max Steele in Salon Salon and the always inspired Erin Markey showing Provincetown Audiences all that being an "It Girl" can mean in 2013.