September 27, 2019 - Kellie Kramer
Kramer’s cabaret captivates, intimately connects
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
For Central Iowa patrons and devotees of solo performance musical arts, if All the Good Men Are Gay lives for only one performance, that would be a travesty. If you missed this show, barrage Noce with requests to schedule more performances. Kellie Kramer, the creative force behind this masterful musical memoir, displayed a performing brilliance often found only on Broadway stages. It would be a shame for others not to experience Kramer’s lightning-in-a-bottle performance.
Kramer’s cabaret played to an enthusiastic, sold-out house – another reason for an encore. In the afterglow of the show’s closing notes, everyone still was transfixed by Kramer’s bold, intimate and song-styling command in this two-act marvel. Center stage, in the spotlight, she shared unfiltered glimpses into her personal journey via song, story and candor. The audience responded in kind with boisterous applause, cheers and, during the more private moments, with pin-drop-quiet admiration for an artist baring her soul in a rich display of song-styling and storytelling.
Opening with her show’s title song, “All the Good Men Are Gay,” a little-known number from The Gay ‘90s Musical, Kramer quickly launched into song after song, woven together by her captivating story and beguiling stage presence. Eighteen additional songs over two acts displayed a deeply researched concept. The songs cover the gamut from Broadway to pop to vintage and more. Each song is delivered with verve, served with enlightening doses of Kramer’s personal reflections and journey. The musical arc took everyone through ingeniously conceived ebbs and flows, each creating an anticipation for the next.
Pulling an eclectic mix of songs from sources such as Diana Ross and The Supremes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Weird Al Yankovich, and Judy Garland into a scintillating repertoire of musical numbers is challenging. Elevating the music to a thematically powerful level, with a reflective, humorous narrative shows a true gift in crafting a complete show. This talented chanteur radiates throughout the show, gliding from bombastic sass to heart-melting vulnerability to life-hardened determination. The show deftly evolves into a personal relationship with her audience, and through it all her band delights in their supportive roles. Kramer’s mashup of “It’s a Fine, Fine Line” and “If You Were Gay” from Avenue Q ended the first act with a flourish. The break was a welcome chance to catch our collective breath.
Serving as a powerful musical glue is the band, anchored by director and pianist extraordinaire Ben Hagen, who even helps with some backup vocals. Seth Hedquist (guitar), H.D. Harmsen (bass), Drew Selim (drums), and Brianne Magel (backup vocals and an ovation-inducing turn on melodica in the playfully biting Sister Sisters tune, “I Can’t Decide”) round out this gifted ensemble. Each musician is the master of their instrument, delivering a peppering of flawless performance features throughout the show.
Kellie Kramer’s All the Good Men Are Gay draws from her innermost memories, opening herself in this cathartic exploration, delivering her messages through an unfiltered story. She anoints her memories’ wounds with the salve of music and sharing. Her versatile vocals sometimes soar, sometimes viscerally connect in her rich, lower-ranged vocal velvet, and are always clear. The intimacy of her past is shared through the intimacy established with her audience. The result is a memorable, passionate performance journey. Next time, be sure you are on board.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional critics, to inform and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.theculturebuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment show, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.