Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the coronavirus pandemic has decimated the performing arts community. Theaters have been shuttered and performers have gone months without meaningful work. And now, as 2021 dawns and the struggle for a coveted vaccine appointment is as valuable as a free iPhone 12 Pro, there’s a glimmer of light on Central Avenue.
Tampa Bay’s favorite (and only) mother and son nightclub act, the renowned Scott and Patti, chronicles its attempts since the world imploded on March 17 to turn grit, intestinal fortitude, and Tupperware into a workable income stream until the proverbial call from Caesar’s Palace arrives.
Both Scott Daniel (pictured above, right) and Matthew McGee (Patti) have long established Tampa Bay street cred as musical theatre performers. But there’s a special alchemy in their charming cabaret act. There’s a warmth and affection that transcends even a show “meant to be enjoyed from inside your car.” While the outdoor stage is clearly visible, artistic director Eric Davis (who also crafted the splendid multimedia) reminds 30 cars that make up the drive-in audience to direct most of their attention to the three large screens where the live feed melds with humorous video.
Trenell Mooring is our assured video narrator knitting together the tale of Patti’s sad decline. From The Match Game to rehab, she’s still strong enough to guide child star Scott to a Mickey Mouse Club high and break the fall that follows his expulsion from *NSYNC, finally crashing in Wimauma. But, it seems, they are not essential workers. How are they to survive?
The estimable freeFall crew spins a tale “combining live musical performance, audio storytelling, and multimedia elements” into a 70-minute, disco-fueled hallucinatory act that grabs both your heart and your funny bone and doesn’t let go. Both singers have real vocal chops, with strength across their entire range and plenty of breath control to sustain the money notes from Michael Raabe’s lively mashups and arrangements. Each shines in solo moments, but there are also plenty of delicious harmonies to savor.
However, what strikes me more than their obvious gifts as entertainers is their desire to serve the audience. Many performers (or past-presidents) telegraph a “look at me, look at me” vibe. Scott and Patti spend their time giving—spreading joy, humor, and the lunacy of stuffed crust pizza.
Sharing too much would deprive you of the fun of the unexpected. The journey to put some extra dollars in their pockets leads Scott and Patti on a circuitous journey filled with over 20 songs and several funny, dubious schemes. The duo rewrites lyrics for topical comic effect and Raabe performs his musical sleight of hand mashing up splendid medleys on money and love—certainly two of the most universal topics in song.
Raabe and his crackerjack band deliver the “lounge lizard” arrangements with an electricity that explodes through your car stereo. And the eclectic song list taps into Broadway and Top-40 redux for a cavalcade of greatest hits woven together to support the jokes, which bounce around popular culture like a game of billiards. From Rob Gronkowski to chicken nuggets to the always reliable Scientology. They then ricochet to YouTube narcissism, greyhound racing, TikTok and an incongruous appearance by wunderkind dictator Kim Jong-un.
Lighting designer Tom Hansen’s low angle backlight gives Patti’s enormous blond bouffant an arresting angelic glow. And what mother wouldn’t love a sequin-tuxed son who is also skilled enough to create a blingy gown and an equally stunning sparkling off-the-shoulder Vegas-worthy pants ensemble? Daniel’s design skills and versatility are jaw-dropping. And McGee, as well, is not a one-trick drag pony. His impressive gift for impersonation is put to good use as he channels Broadway divas invited (by satellite) to join their BINGO gambling scheme along with the audience.
The evening flies by and when a rousing chorus of “We Are Family” is the encore to send us off into the night, I’m struck with a welcome realization. No matter what your quarantine malady or malaise, Scott and Patti: Get a Real Job is a universal cure for what ails you.
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