It’s Madame With An “E-ow”
Two years ago, Rick Skye brought Madame to a fundraiser for the Richmond Triangle Players and extracted a promise from managing director Philip Crosby for a return performance once RTP’s new theater in Scott’s Addition opened up. This weekend It’s Madame with an “E” returned to a full house and a belly full of laughs.
Saturday’s show was seriously marred by sound difficulties. The volume was too loud so that when Madame raised her voice the sound system scratched, howled, and reverberated. Twice, the lavalier mic gave out altogether, the last time for good. But Madame milked the technical difficulties for uproarious off the cuff humor and the show was actually improved when Madame, her handler Rick Skye, and musical straight man Ricky Ritzel delivered their bits without artificial amplification.
Those of us of a certain age will remember the original Madame and her co-star Wayland Flowers from classic 60s and 70s TV shows such as Laugh In, Hollywood Squares, and Madame’s Place. After Wayland died in 1985, Madame retired until Skye resurrected her for this touring show which sold out house in Las Vegas.
If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you know those shows are geared more to the seasoned citizens than to the smart set, so it’s not surprising that Skye’s retro Madame did very well there. The routine is heavy on barely reworked jokes along the lines of “If I could walk like that I wouldn’t need the talcum powder” and other groaners. Skye’s voice and Madame’s mannerisms are also eerily reminiscent of the original.
Skye does bring several new twists to this Madame. First, where Wayland’s Madame was ribald, Skye’s Madame can be down right raunchy. The pop culture references in this show are heavily dosed with current figures such as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. The show is also accented with video and vintage photos, doctored to insert Madame’s face in unnervingly appropriate places, reminiscent of local artist Gary Johnson’s 1980s irreverent photo remakes.
A final twist is the addition of another dummy, Mary, midway through the show. For fans strictly interested in Madame, this is a distraction and a noticeable drop off from the first and latter parts of the show. For those interested in a more current comedic routine that is barely visible in the Madame portion, Mary doesn’t deliver much else either.
Madame with an “E” was only in the city for this one weekend. It’s another example of how “the busiest little theater in Richmond,” as Philip Crosby self-describes RTP, continues to extend its range and to bring some of live show business’ best talent and most popular works to this Greenwich Village of the South.
Carter S Grove, formerly with The Virginia Flame and GayRichmond.com, has been reviewing Richmond theater for over a decade.
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