Meow Meow’ s ‘Audience’: A diva’s devilish doings

Audience members becoming living props in

Audience members becoming living props in “An Audience with Meow Meow.” Photo Credit: Paul Marotta, Perfect Bokeh Photography

BOSTON – And now for something completely different.

Meow Meow, the creator and star of the ArtsEmerson production of “An Audience with Meow Meow” at the Cutler Majestic Theatre owes something to the late legendary Victor Borge, the classically-trained pianist who found out he could make a lot more money telling jokes and suffering pratfalls between snippets of music than doing full-length concerts.

By definition, the cabaret performer is emotional, dramatic and theatrical – it was so easy to turn the straight play “Cabaret” into a musical because of that – and Meow Meow is theatrical and then some. She sings in several languages, has her name up in lights on the stage, and even has a portable fog machine to create just the right atmosphere.

And yes, there it is: Meow Meow, aka Australian-born Melissa Madden Gray, has often had fun with the equally theatrical Lady Gaga , although Meow Meow apparently has been doing her thing a lot longer than Lady Gaga, so who influenced whom?

Meow Meow requests – no, make that demands – that her patrons become part of the production, and they are asked to support her in various ways during the 90-minute audience, including making them living props, as part of a kick line, and later supporting her as she goes body surfing into the audience.

Boston becomes an integral character during the show, with Meow Meow making pithy comments about the city and the audience. “Is that as Vegas as Boston gets?” Meow Meow asked plaintively at one point.

She even shows the woman behind the mystery in one number as she doffs several layers of legware and hands a pair of falsies to one befuddled patron, while Nikka Graff Lanzarone has us seeing double later in the show.

Meow Meow is without pretense, naked so to speak before us, as she puts herself out there without a net as the costume changes come in rapid succession.

The music in question is an eclectic collection of tunes, including Brecht-Weill’s “Mac The Knife,” Jacque Brel’s “Me Me Quitte Pas” and “Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” for the hilarious “Bikini Number.”

Meow Meow enjoys splendid support from music supervisor/music director Lance Horne on the piano and three other musicians under his direction. Perhaps the greatest contribution by Director Leigh Silverman is letting Meow Meow go right up to the edge of the cliff without falling off.

The audience is subtitled “The Show Might Go On” and Meow Meow, ever the diva and apparently frustrated by tepid reaction early in the show, walks off the stage and threatens not to return. But return she does, and the result is great fun.

You, the patrons, are there to support and encourage Meow Meow during this audience, and woe to the patron who doesn’t hold up his or her end of the bargain.

Arts Emerson and True Friends Productions present “An Audience With Meow Meow.” Created by and starring Meow Meow. Choreography by: Sonya Tayeh. Music Supervision by: Lance Horne. Scenic and  Costume Design by Andrea Lauer. Lighting & Projection Design by Alexander V. Nichols Sound Design by: Rob Kaplowitz. Original Design Concepts by: Neil Murray Directed by: Leigh Silverman. At the Cutler Majestic Theatre through Oct. 24. http://www.artsmerson.org.

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