An encore performance of ‘Vangari: Cautionary Tales’ coming to NYC’s don’t tell mama

Following a successful run in 2021, the musical mother/daughter duo Vangari returns to the iconic NYC nightspot don’t tell mama on West 46th Street’s Restaurant Row for a special encore performance of their popular cabaret act Cautionary Tales on Sunday, March 27. Accompanied by Musical Director Darryl Curry on piano and vocals, Evangeline Johns and Ariana Johns will bring their own unique intergenerational song stylings to everything from Bessie Smith and Johnny Mercer to The Beatles and The Cure.

Vangari (Ariana Johns and Evangeline Johns). Photo by Nicolette Norton.

Featuring choreography by Max McGuire and Mark Mindek and between-songs banter that ranges “from raucous to sublime,” the show has proven to be a fan favorite, most recently nominated for two 2021 Broadway World Awards in the categories of Best Musical Comedy Cabaret/Revue and Best Musical Director.

I spoke with Ariana during rehearsals to give our readers an idea of what to expect in this upcoming one-date-only performance of Cautionary Tales and what it means to her.

Ariana Johns. Photo by Alwyn Mathers.

What are some of your favorite highlights of the show?

Ariana: I love the way this line-up of songs just flows, it has such variety of genre and tone. I honestly love all of it, but a few personal favorites are the trios “Blue Blues/Take it Right Back,” the fever-dream of “Love Cats,” Darryl’s mash-up of “My Funny Valentine/It’s a Nice Face,” the soulful duet “The Sweetest Thing,” and the fun choreography for “Java Jive” and “Harper Valley PTA.”

What do you enjoy most about your home-away-from-home at don’t tell mama?

Well, Sidney Myer, of course! He’s been the driving force behind DTM since the early ‘80s, and in the ‘90s, my comedy partner John Ten Eyck and I performed our show there as Too Idiots. When we returned to do our Return Of . . . show nearly 20 years later, Sidney remembered us, even details of our act, and he couldn’t have been more welcoming. It’s also just an iconic venue, so much history and a cozy place that showcases a fabulous variety of performers, plus it’s reasonable – when you invite friends, you know they won’t have to mortgage their homes to come see your show.

Evangeline Johns. Photo by Ariana Johns.

What’s the greatest reward about performing with your Mom in a mother/daughter act?

It’s sublime to be on stage with my Mom – I am so blessed to have this opportunity! The past few years have presented some steep obstacles to overcome but having Vangari throughout has been a kind of lifeline. We’ve always been a close family, my Dad included, and his joy of seeing us sing together makes it all the sweeter. As far as I know, we’re the only mother/daughter team to have an ongoing act, and we make each other laugh at every rehearsal – also, we’ve made each other appreciate music that the other didn’t even know existed.

Evangeline Johns, Darryl Curry, and Ariana Johns. Photo by Alwyn Mathers.

What does your dear friend, pianist, and Musical Director Darryl Curry bring to the stage?

Darryl who? Hah, Darryl is truly one-third of Vangari! Since my Mom and I started performing cabaret individually (with Darryl) and doing cameos at each other’s shows, it was his encouragement that helped convince us to perform an act together. And he’s created some wonderful mash-ups of songs for us that are such fun to sing – plus he completely gets our humor and adds to it, with his own singing and suggestions while we’re shaping the show. It’s very much a collaborative effort, creating our playlist and dialogue, and Darryl is as honest as he is encouraging, so if something makes him laugh, we’ll keep it in the show.

What do you hope the audience takes away from Cautionary Tales?

These are some uncertain times, with so much going on in the world, and we want to give our audience a place to relax, to laugh, maybe even to shed a tear or two. The interplay of having a live audience that we’re performing to, relating to, sharing some music and laughter with . . . theater is a respite from “reality.” At the same time, it’s the most real an experience one can have. We just want to share some love.

Many thanks, Ariana, for giving us a preview of Cautionary Tales. Looking forward to seeing you back at don’t tell mama!

Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, without intermission.

Vangari: Cautionary Tales plays on Sunday, March 27, at 4 pm (seating begins at 3:15 pm), at don’t tell mama, 343 West 46th Street, NYC. For reservations ($15 cover charge and a two-drink minimum; cash only), go online. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter the building.


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