Theater folks and fans alike reveled in last night’s Summer Hummer V: Champions – the Washington Theater Community’s annual one-night-only benefit for theatreWashington’s ‘Taking Care of Our Own’ at the Signature Theatre last night. Each year, the organization raises much-needed emergency assistance for members of the theater community, everything from medical costs to transportation and technical help.
Signature Theatre Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and Matthew Gardiner directed the evening’s hi-jinks in grand style. Riffing on the just-ended Olympics, this boisterous and bawdy night kicked off with a video of acclaimed actor/singer Sherri L. Edelen as Miss Puss (from a previous Hummer appearance) panting across the Mall and through the streets of Shirlington in a cat suit with her ceremonial torch held high. Pausing only to lap milk from a passerby’s grocery bag, she ascended Signature’s brightly lit stairs to its rooftop – a timely way to start last night’s ‘games.’
The unabashed Rick Hammerly took the baton, setting the raucous tone for the rest of the evening. Dressed in a singlet and high-heeled boots, his hilarious comic routine ended with a saucy turn away from the audience – revealing a giant cut-out below the waist of his otherwise chaste-looking garment. It was the first of many views of the cast’s well-muscled buns…
Among the many standouts from this spirited revue were the Mad-Libs coaxed from the audience by James Gardiner and Evan Casey and then inserted into “Send in the Clowns” sung by local superstar Donna Migliaccio, whose quick thinking and superb musical phrasing allowed her to scan phrases that included even ‘Donald Trump’ (the evening’s only reference to the candidate) flawlessly into Sondheim’s well-loved song.
Will Gartshore’s darkly comic “Masochism Tango” convulsed the audience in shivers, giggles and groans. Steven Gregory Smith’s “Buttered Popcorn” was funny enough, even before a gigantic stick of butter, its paper covering peeled back to reveal a bright yellow tip, sauntered, then thrusted onto the stage.
Dan Manning turned us momentarily away from jazzy showtunes to a Burl Ives-like performance of two songs. Accompanying himself on guitar, Manning first lamented his partner’s unyielding sexual preferences (“He Only Wants to Love Me Where I Poop”), and then moved quickly to Chuck Berry’s inimitable “My Ding-a-ling.”
With their tuxes and black ties askew and highball glasses in hand, Evan Casey and Bobby Smith updated Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” with a colorful accounting of their sexual adventures over the years. Delivered with the Rat Pack insouciance of Sinatra and Martin, it was one of the evening’s most hilariously affecting acts.
All the performers were well-supported by Lighting Designers Grant Wilcoxen and E-hui Wood, Sound Designer Lane Elms, Choreographer Matt Gardiner, Music Director Darius Smith, Video Producers Eric Schaeffer and James Gardiner, and many others who contributed their talents to this stellar event.
A clearly delighted audience responded to every number, including terrific tunes by Ines Nassara, Erin Driscoll, Carolyn Cole, and the wonderfully racy Tracy Olivera with one of Hummer’s grand traditions – the flinging of dollar bills into the talented cast’s various cleavages and more chastely, into buckets they continuously circulated through the audience.
As I heard my neighbor say on the way out, “I ran out of single dollar bills early on, so I started flinging my fives and tens. What the hell – it’s a great cause.” And indeed it is! Mark your calendar – next year’s Summer Hummer VI is scheduled for August 21, 2017.
Summer Hummer V: Champions played on August 22, 2016 at 7:30 and 9:30 PM at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue in Arlington, VA.
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