Sidle up to the bar inside the Tipsy Sparrow speakeasy, grab a glass of bathtub gin, and take a rose-colored look back at the final night when alcohol was illegal in America in this humorous historical cabaret from Melanie Gall, the winter/vocalist behind Ingenue
, last year’s compelling Deanna Dubin bioplay. In case you aren’t up to speed on hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation, Pussyfoot Johnson, and the history of teetotalling, Gall shares in story and song how the early 20th century temperance movement transformed every aspect of our lives, from boat design and Kosher wine to the English language itself.
Gall gets the party started with the titular Irving Berlin tune paying teasing tribute to the 18th Amendment, and she gives her vibrant vibratto a workout on vintage ditties by Billy Arnold, Harry Ruby, and even Al “Scarface” Capone himself; Ed Rose’s saucy novelty number about a cellar key is especially cute. With substance abuse and cannabis legalization still hot topics today, perhaps the lasting takeaway from Gall’s collection of century-old songs is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, this show’s romanticized gushing over the speakeasy era’s alleged liberalism unjustly minimizes the crime and violence underlying those underground establishments. But I’ll still raise a glass to Gall for throwing a swinging party while educating along the way.
Tickets and show info: A Toast to Prohibition