I have two friends in from out of town, staying with me. Actually three. But the third is staying elsewhere, except when he’s not—his stuff is here. It’s very complicated.
The first two, Raife and Brian, are easy-going sorts. They’re easy to please. Raife’s an actor. Brian’s a playwright and may soon be a dramaturg. With their interest in theater and their need for amusement, I said to them last night, “Do you want to go to a tightly crowded bar in the village with a red piano where everyone sings show tunes?” Naturally, they said: “Uhhh, sure.”
Lisa came with and we skipped on down to Christopher Street and 7th. Wrong street. It was one up.
Once inside, we were all a bit timid. They were doing a 42nd Street medley and none of us were too familiar. Then they shifted to other before-our-time classics like “Hey There” (the Rosemary Clooney song, not “Hey You” the Pink Floyd Song). Nervous glances were exchanged.
We got drinks. We found a bench in a corner. And then it happened…
“The hillllllllls are alive…AHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAH with the sound of musssssssssic…”
We were on our feet. Everyone was singing. We knew this!
Then of course, “Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…when you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with…”
DO REI ME.
THE FIRST THREE NOTES JUST HAPPEN TO BE…
Come on, you know it’s blaring in your head. That’s what’s wonderful about Marie’s Crisis. It seems like a dangerously horrible idea from the outside, but once you’re sucked in it’s like jumping in one of those inflatable bouncy machines at kids birthday parties.
Soon they were playing “Cabaret,” “My Fair Lady,” “Chicago.” Here’s Lisa and Raife doing “They Both Reached For The Gun” (notice how his mouth never moves; almost):
I think alcohol is an important component to enjoying the Marie’s Crisis experience. The combination of drink, show tunes and Christmas lights creates a certain New Years Eve-like quality that makes the evening feel more special than your average evening out. The other thing I love is that here is this room full of strange, wildly different people (old men, young men, black men, white men, Asian men, Lisa) who have a shared passion for what is certainly no longer a vital medium of musical expression.
Here’s a glimpse of the magic inside:
One of the best things about the crowd is that every so often someone will sing a solo, even if they’re not talented, but with such passion as to almost win you over. And in songs with dialogue, people vie for the opportunity to recite what they’ve memorized. Like with “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago,” there were men staggered around the room ready to go, “I loved Albert Lipshitz, more than I can say.” The funniest was the part that’s performed by the Russian in russian (you know that part, where she goes “Not Guilty”)—this Asian man stood up and did the monologue in Japanese. The crowd loved it.
Friend #3 Andrew and his friend, Sam, came to meet us. They walked in with looks of horror on their faces. They shifted uncomfortably. They slurped down drinks eagerly. They resisted the Mary Poppins medley and my rousing rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” They promptly left.
Marie’s Crisis isn’t for everyone. But for those that it IS for, it’s a hell of a good time. You can’t argue with the look of showtune/alcohol-induced ecstasy on these faces: