We all know the stereotypes of the butch lesbian truck driver or the lesbian softball coach, but a lesbian cabaret singer? Well, put your doubts to rest as Elaine St. George carves out a niche for herself in her quite funny and topical new show The Girl That I Marry. Addressing the issue of gay marriage head on, St. George skillfully weaves satire and humor with traditional theater songs and crafts a show that sheds new light on weddings, commitment, and true love in the context of same-sex relationships. Elaine St. George has written a solid show that, while it contains some numbers that are stronger than others, is overall an entertaining evening.
Backed by her "honorary lesbians," the talented Adam Armstrong on bass and her musical director, the dexterous Janice Friedman on piano, the show has a polished, jazzy, and swinging feel to it. The expected marriage and wedding songs are all there, including Kander and Ebb’s "Married" from Cabaret and their song "Marry Me" from The Rink, as well as Irving Berlin’s "Old Fashioned Wedding" from Annie Get Your Gun. But the show also includes some unexpected and delightful gems given new meaning in the context of gay marriage such as "Legalize My Name" from St. Louis Woman and a wonderful cut song from Little Me called "Smart People Stay Single."
With a pleasing voice that might be described as Ethel Merman gone classical, St. George has a keen sense of comic timing that she uses to great effect in her sharp patter, but less so in her song interpretations, which at times lack nuance and spark. St. George really shines, though, when she puts the mic down and sings without amplification (which makes her sound shrill and even unpleasant in her upper register).
Her first major score of the evening was her rendition of Andrew Lippa’s "An Old-Fashioned Love Story" from The Wild Party, which she put over like gangbusters. Unlike some of her other numbers, which she performs a little too coolly, St. George really turns on the wattage for this song and milks it for every ounce of humor that she can. She only matches this musical highlight later in the show (once again sans mic) with a highly inventive neurotic medley that combines My Fair Lady’s "Get Me to the Church on Time" with Sondheim’s "Getting Married Today." The pairing really serves both songs well and one wishes that some of her other numbers might have benefited from equally inventive arrangements.
The context of gay marriage gives these classic songs new meaning and the surrounding patter does an excellent job of setting up the musical selections. Oddly enough, though, most of St. George’s patter seemed to assume or position her audience as "straight," which was odd considering that the audience seemed to be fairly mixed between gay and straight, if not predominantly gay. Though the show will appeal to all audiences regardless of their sexual orientation, St. George might want to reconsider the demographics of her audience so that she talks togay audience members and not about them.
All in all, The Girl That I Marry is a pleasant and often humorous evening. Hopefully St. George will drop the mic altogether and let her voice really shine as she has a personality and vocal instrument that can clearly light up and fill a room. Gay marriage might not be legal in New York yet, but in the meantime, we can enjoy some good-hearted fun that proves that love can’t be legislated.
The Girl That I Marry