Friday, March 1, 2019

The wicked little twist in Puddles Pity Party's Orlando show is the surprising drama

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 4:29 PM

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
Puddles Pity Party, Plaza Live, Feb. 28

In concept, Puddles Pity Party is unabashed in its contrivance. Oh, but what a grand conceit it is. An NBA-sized clown with a satin voice is as indelible of an impression as they come. Nothing's wrong with a gimmick if it works. And the execution of this character is art.

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
The crooner clown persona of Atlanta's Mike Geier has become a cult phenomenon. His show is a fresh neo-vaudeville mix of audience-engaging pantomime skits and renditions of popular songs. Given the scheme, though, the results can often be more theater than camp.

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
With a ranging covers repertoire that included Bowie, Tina Turner, Cheap Trick, Johnny Cash, Styx, Orbison and the Pixies, the singing of this modern-day pop Pagliacci isn't just some Top 40s burlesque.

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
There were plenty moments of levity but, mostly and most memorably, Puddles delivers these canonical hits with slow deliberation and noir resonance. He injects such deep pathos and majesty that it can be an eerily moving performance. That it's cast in the warped light of a sad clown only makes it more intriguing.



click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
In fact, the clown routines, though of good quality, are low-hanging fruit in the totality of Puddles' show. His best magic is coaxing surprising new emotion and depth from timeworn songs. When he hits it right, it's a revelation that's the arresting opposite of comedy. And nailing you with real poignancy when he's set you up for folly is the most amazing trick of all. Seriously, a simple cabaret version of Puddles' show would be enough to satisfy real music fans.

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
That said, one particularly mischievous gag where he shuffled the phones of people recording him mid-song throughout the audience was subversive and brilliant, causing an ad hoc lost-and-found to break out at the foot of the stage after the song to reunite phones with owners.

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live
In aggregate, there's nothing else like the reaction between studied clown craft and genuine singing artistry at Puddles’ performances. The juxtaposition – between humor and drama, classic and contemporary – yields a pretty singular gestalt. And it all adds up to a master expressionist.

click to enlarge Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live - JEN CRAY
  • Jen Cray
  • Puddles Pity Party at the Plaza Live

Follow Bao on Twitter (@baolehuu)
Email Bao: baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com


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