Review: The Arden Cabaret Series with Tony Braithwaite at Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia

At one point on opening night of his latest show, Tony Braithwaite asked if any of his fellow Georgetown University graduates were in the audience. One woman sitting up front announced that she went to Georgetown – and that she was Jewish.

“You got a Jewsuit education!” cracked Braithwaite.

Tony Braithwaite.
Tony Braithwaite.

That’s the type of genial, off-the-cuff humor that’s typical of Braithwaite’s style. And there was plenty of that on display in his latest cabaret show, which capitalized on the good will he’s built up over two decades as a stage performer in Philadelphia.

Mind you, there was a good deal of scripted material in Braithwaite’s show, including anecdotes about his youth in the Philadelphia suburbs and stories about his chance meetings with several U.S. presidents (complete with impressions). There’s even a faithful recreation of a standup routine by one of his biggest influences, Bob Newhart.

But Braithwaite shines brightest in his audience interactions. The material about the presidents prompted him to pull an audience member onstage for a presidential trivia quiz. The volunteer was eager to participate, though given his level of expertise, he probably shouldn’t have been. But the star went easy on him; Braithwaite made him, and the audience, feel comfortable.

And anecdotes about Braithwaite’s experience teaching sex education at an all-male Catholic high school led to a routine where he fielded written questions about sex from the audience. If that sounds like a treacherous subject for such a soothing performer, don’t worry – Braithwaite was unflappable, handling the sometimes-raunchy questions with wit and restraint.

Owen Robbins played piano, accompanying Braithwaite on a song parody and on the quickest version of a Barbra Streisand tune you’ll ever hear.

Tony Braithwaite’s show is all about having a good time with the most affable guy in the room. He’s an old-fashioned entertainer, in the best sense of the word.

Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.

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Tony Braithwaite gave his final performance in the Arden Cabaret Series on June 18, 2016. The series is performed at the Arden Theatre’s Hamilton Family Arts Center – 62 North Second Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets to future shows, call the box office at (215) 922-1122, or purchase them online.

LINK:
Tony Brathwaite’s website.