Review: ‘Make ’em Laugh’ at Signature Theatre

Signature Theatre finishes out their 2015-2016 cabaret series with the uproarious and uplifting Make ‘em Laugh Cabaret, featuring Happy McPartlin and Tracy Lynn Olivera.  The duo brings new meaning to the term “showstopper” with their powerful voices and perfectly timed comical banter.  With pianist and Music Director (and sometime back-up vocal) Marc Bryan Lilley, the ladies perform numerous well-known pieces from pop, stage, and film, along with some lesser known (but equally enthralling) songs.

Tracy Lynn Olivera.
Tracy Lynn Olivera.

The show takes place on the fourth floor of Signature in a large open room that is filled with small tables and chairs. There is a platform stage in the front of the room, with a piano, stools, mics, and music stands, and in the far back left corner, a small bar. The space has an extremely relaxed and inviting feel to it; All intimacy and comfortably informal.

The ladies start the show with a rendition of The Black Eyed Peas’ “Lady Lumps,” and the result is hard to describe. Their voices infuse all the passion and intent of a soulful ballad into lines like “I’ma get get get get you drunk. Get you love drunk off my hump.” To laugh at such exquisite vocals feels almost like sacrilege, but the juxtaposition of sound and substance is too absurdly perfect so laugh you must.

The song and arrangement choice was a fantastic kick-off for the evening: Showing off the well-deserved Diva status of Happy McPartlin and Tracy Lynn Olivera, but also making the audience aware that laughter is not only welcomed, but expected.

Walter Ware III directed this fantastic cabaret with several breaks between the songs to allow for some improv and interaction with the crowd. The ladies use the stage and sometimes meander into the audience to serenade an unsuspecting patron or to freshen up their drink from the bar.

Each and every song is a complete knockout and the chemistry between these two Divas is undeniable. The duet,“I Don’t Want to Show Off, from The Drowsy Chaperone tickles;  Happy McPartlin’s “It’s Raining Men” titillates; and the duet with audience participation, “My Ding a Ling” has people peeing in their seats.

Tracy Lynn Olivera’s funniest moments are many and the most relatable song would be “TMI.” In this age of social media, over-sharing is at pandemic levels and Tracy is marvelously awkward and endearing as the song’s character, who deserves the title of ‘The Over-Share Queen.’

Happy McPartlin.
Happy McPartlin.

A highlight for Happy McPartlin came in the form of her incredible Celine Dione impression, singing “My Heart Will Go On” (complete with facial expressions and all), immediately followed by Tracy Lynn Olivera’s impression of Elton John singing “Take Me to the Pilot.” I will not spoil the fun for that particular piece, but I will say that Tracy came in at a close second, as far as impressions go.

The entire Cabaret was fast-paced and witty, sometimes a little raunchy, and quite frequently full of sass. Tracy Lynn Olivera and Happy McPartlin made a perfect pair or Dynamic Duo, shall we say, and I do believe the audience would have stayed all night, had the these stars chosen to just keep on singing.

Signature’s Make ‘em Laugh Cabaret is perfect for date night, ladies night, or any other kind of occasion – so don’t miss out. Laughter is the cure for all evils, and now, more than ever, we could all use a laugh.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Make ’em Laugh plays through June 18, 2016 at Signature Theatre4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 820-9771, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1552.gif


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