(l-r) Brandon Haagenson, David Hanbury and Ken Lear in Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-Tacular. | Dan Norman
BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE | If you want to be successfully silly, you have to be really smart. And David Hanbury qualifies on both counts. His new show, “Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-Tacular,” is the perfect diversion for a hot summer night. Hanbury, as Mrs. Smith, is grieving for the loss of her cat/co-star Carlyle. Theirs is an apparently fraught and tempestuous creative partnership. (And given the implied time span of the autobiographical cabaret Hanbury has concocted, Carlyle must be well through several of his nine lives.)
The distraught Mrs. Smith does what any grieving chanteuse would do. Seeking catharsis, she puts on a show to ease her pain, or, as she says, to “cathart all over you.” Combining sly cultural references spanning decades and guffaw worthy, over-the-top performances of “The Cat that Got Away,” “One Night in Bangkok,” Hanbury is adept at a variety of musical styles, costumes, and camp. Hanbury also channels Judy and Liza and Babs with his very strong and versatile voice. The entire show is calibrated chaos, and it’s clearly in the tradition of Charles Ludlam, early Charles Busch and, of course, Harold Crabtree. That said, it’s completely original in its own right and just plain fun. There are even a pet psychic and Skype calls. Priceless.
A star as luminous as Mrs. Smith needs support, and she finds it in her Broadway Boys — Ken Lear and Brandon Haagenson. Looking sleek in tuxes, they are pressed into all manner of service in support of Mrs. Smith, but they really shine doing high stepping dances right out of 1930’s musicals on the teeny stage of the 47th Street Theater. They fill the faux intermission with a cabaret of their own, providing a hilarious send-up of chorus boys and the kind of artificial camaraderie of two guys who just happen to find themselves on a stage with a piano. They’re a riot.
I’m told that Hanbury has been doing his Mrs. Smith act for a while. This, however, was my first time and I sincerely hope it won’t be my last. Don’t miss her.