She performed the first-ever strip tease at Don't Tell Mama in her debut there this May. Now Caroline Durham, former New York City Strip-O-Gram artist, returns to the cabaret club with Unzipped!, a musical memoir of her early career.
Classic Broadway show tunes (some updated by lyricist Janet Gari and Rick McKay) will be part of the evening, as will an elegant, Gypsy Rose Lee-style striptease. Barbara Lea directs the show, which features John Loehrke on bass and Wes McAfee on piano.
Not unexpectedly, the songs include "Zip," from Pal Joey, and Gypsy's "Gotta Have A Gimmick (the latter including new parody lyrics). Less well-known numbers are Brian Gari's Relax With Me Baby (from Late Nite Comic) and "Take It Off The E String, Play It On The G-String," from the Barbara Stanwyck flick, "The G-String Murders," based on the book by Gypsy Rose Lee.
After Durham's years as a Reno showgirl (were she appeared with Jim Nabors, Vicki Carr and Donald O'Connor in Razzle Dazzle), she appeared in the Off-Broadway production of Mary Rodgers' Freaky Friday, toured in Columbus, and worked on the original cast recording of Such A Pretty Face (on Original Cast records).
Asked how she came up with the idea for a strip cabaret, Durham told Playbill that the idea was Rick McKay, who suggested she turn her array of work experiences into an autobiographical solo. "When I came to New York from Vegas," recalled Durham, "I was very idealistic. I thought I'd just get a part in a Broadway show. But open calls are mostly cast already."
Durham sees Unzipped! as the antidote to Hollywood's slew of unrealistic movies about the exotic dance scene: "I saw `Striptease' and `Showgirls.' Demi Moore is a beautiful woman, and I didn't mind looking at her for two hours, but it's not anything real... Most of the stories in my show are amusing, although I do go into the problems I had when I was expected to be more of a lap-dancer than a stripper."
A belter and legit singer (who can hit an E-flat over high C), Durham views her show as "uplifting, a refreshing way of approaching the story."
Back Stage critic Roy Sander praised Durham in her previous engagement: "Her handling of the subject was intelligent and unapologetic; the show was well-crafted, Durham's voice was often impressive, and yes, fellas, she did a strip (classy)."
For tickets and information about Unzipped, call Don't Tell Mama at (212)757-0788.
-- By David Lefkowitz