To say that the four original songs commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Festival stole the show at this musical review is no small thing. After all, they were up against tunes by the likes of Gershwin, Berlin and Porter. They met that high bar and outdid by being new to the world. Thank you Chicago Humanities Festival for supporting artists who got the goods.
This show, “Birds Do It, Bees Do It” was a comical romp through the mating habits in the animal kingdom. There were 24 songs performed by a cast of 22 musicians, actors and singers.
If you are allergic to cabaret that verges on cornball this wasn’t your show. But if you get smiles from jokes about the peculiarities of animal kingdom mating habits, including human animals, this was your show.
“Don’t Bug Me” by Cheryl Coons and Beckie Menzie was the first of the new works. Not only does it have interludes of praying mantis screaches but it humorously tells the tale of a female praying mantis who eats the head of her mate explaining that he should know better than to mount her while she’s praying.
“Sparrow” by Alan Schmuckler and performed with great soul by actor Skyler Adams is a new work that tells the love story of a bird gone missing.
“Precious Cargo” by Michael Mahler is a rock ballad that tells the story of “March of the Penguins”, a snippet of which was projected behind the composer and his wife as they performed the song. It has a powerful base beat opener and closer and the song was made all the more meaningful by Mahler sharing that he was thinking of gay couples’ rights to adopt children as he wrote it, especially powerful on the evening when gay marriage was finally approved by the Illinois legislature.
And Robbie Fulks new work, “No Life on Earth” is a very funny tribute to the lack of lust in long-term marriages.
The performers gave it their all, whether they were singing “Lesbian Seagull” (performed by Rebecca Finnegan) or “Glow Worm/The Inch Worm (performed by Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael). Special call-outs need to go to those performers who put the X in the X-rated, whom I’ll be looking for again on Chicago stages—blues singer Felicia P. Fields (performing Hound Dog and Makin’ Whoopee); Bethany Thomas (almost orgasmic with her rendition of “Do It Again”, and also in duets with Robbie Fulks) and Meghan Murphy, in a dress reminding you that some indeed like it hot, singing Paul Simon’s “One Trick Pony” and “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show”.
The cabaret was in keeping with this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival Theme of Animal: What Makes Us Human. It is a tradition for each year’s festival and if you like torch singing or shtick songs of cabaret make a definite mental note to circle this event next year. Meanwhile keep your eyes and ears open for all chances to hear other new works by these cream-of-the-crop composers.
The Chicago Humanities Festival continues through November 10. For more information on upcoming events visit the Chicago Humanities Festival website.
Photos: Michael Brosilow