The best (or at least my favorites) of cabaret series/madhouse Our Hit Parade.
By Kimberly Lew (Playwright/Blogger)
The concept is simple: once a month, hosts Neal Medlyn and Bridget Everett took to the stage with Kenny Mellman to count down the top ten pop songs from the previous month. For every song, they would have themselves or a guest (who ranged from Broadway stars to series regulars to indie darlings) reinterpret the songs however they chose.
It seems like a simple enough idea, but when I attended my first Our Hit Parade show at Joe’s Pub a couple of years ago, there was no way I could have prepared myself for the joyous chaos that pursued. I watched Cole Escola smearing lipstick across his face as he sang a gentle-hearted Taylor Swift song. I watched Bridget Everett belt out a ballad in a diaper. I heard Tracy Bonham use a looping technique to add artistry to a Black Eyed Peas song, a feat that defies the laws of science, if you ask me. And through the nudity and the manic dancing and the sexual come ons that almost bordered on harassment, there was always clearly a special energy in the air. Because no matter what happened, there was a vibe created that assured everyone that we were in a safe place. Anything could and would happen there. And we all gave into the genderbending, un-PC, wild antics onstage and just enjoyed the ride.
Last December, Our Hit Parade played its last show. I was lucky enough to see it, and I can’t even convey how magical the whole thing was. I cried. I laughed. I was confused. I even felt a little sick. It was the perfect evening-- the kind that reminds you why you came to New York, why you create art, why you search for collaborators and partners. So though Our Hit Parade is no more, I did want to pay a last tribute with some of my favorite performances from shows past:
Molly Pope singing a mashup of Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love”
As though this isn’t already one of the classiest, most gut-wrenching covers of these songs artfully stitched into one, but OHP regular Molly Pope sang this at the final show and brought the house DOWN. I was in ugly tears, y’all. It was rough but exquisite.
Shockwave, Arthur Lewis, and Jon Braman performing Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”
I couldn’t do a countdown without including some version of this song; no matter how obnoxious it may seem, there is a weird feeling of fraternity when you can loudly sing this with other New Yorkers. Also, I love when people rewrite the rap to fit their New York experiences, and while Colbert’s rendition ranks high on my list, this version is probably closest to my own.
Bridget Everett singing “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
“The Climb” is not just a metaphor at Our Hit Parade-- it’s a challenge. All the makings of a classic Bridget performance-- gyrating, straddling foreign objects, and fierce singing throughout.
Kenny Mellman singing “Both of Us” by B.O.B., featuring Taylor Swift
Kenny Mellman was the backbone of Our Hit Parade. As half of legendary act Kiki and Herb, he’s an incredibly talented musician and undeniable performer. With palpable anger and heartfelt passion, he turned many songs that could easily be dismissed as inane into personal treatises. This is one of many of those performances.
Alan Cumming singing “From This Moment” by Shania Twain
Pretty self-explanatory, no?
Neal Medlyn singing “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz
Take that, Autotune!
Jesse Tyler Ferguson singing “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga
This surprisingly passionate rendition actually gives a somewhat nonsensical song a narrative arc. Also, gotta love his substitution of the word “bolsillo” with “burrito.”
KIMBERLY LEW is a playwright with two published one-act plays for high schools, as well as full-length Searching for Candi (co-written with Gabriella Miyares), which debuted at Mt. Holyoke college. Her latest play, Other People's Children, was recently featured as a part of The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective's new works reading series and was a semi-finalist for the 2012 O'Neill Playwrights Conference and Ashland New Play Festival. She also created/manages the Emerging Musical Theatre blog. www.kimberlylew.com
EMAIL HER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | OTHER POSTS BY THIS AUTHOR