Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas

By Valerie Boyle
Performed by Valerie Boyle and Randy Vancourt
Directed by Robert More, Musical Direction by Randy Vancourt
VPP Production, Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
August 15 to September 2, 2006
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Sophie’s Naughty Jokes keeps audience in hysterics

She was big, she was bold, but she wasn’t beautiful. The story of Sophie Tucker is brought to life on stage at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia by writer-actor Valerie Boyle. Boyle researched the life of Sophie Tucker, a popular Vaudeville star, and wrote the script. She appears on stage as Tucker, along with pianist Randy Vancourt who plays Tucker’s accompanist Teddy Shapiro.

Sophie Tucker was born in the late 1800’s, the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants who brought her to the US as a child. She loved performing, even though she overheard a director saying she was too fat and too ugly to go on stage. They gave her a part as a blackface minstrel, to hide her unattractiveness. But one night she lost her make-up, appeared on stage has herself, telling jokes and singing. The audience loved her, and she became a headliner. Following Vaudeville, she had a movie career, recording contracts, and adapted to radio and television, appearing on the Ed Sullivan show. Tucker died in 1966.

But Boyle has very convincingly brought her back to life. And while she often “talks” through the songs, Boyle can belt a tune just like Sophie Tucker. Songs like “See Mama every night, or You Can’t See Mama at All”, and “Hula Lou” make up a lengthy repertoire of numbers.

The audience is provided with interesting tidbits about Sophie’s life – her three husbands, her relationship with her long-time accompanist, and places she performed.

Most amazing is the endless string of naughty jokes! If her stories aren’t out-right off-colour, there is always bawdy innuendo. Comments such as “A man is like a good carpet – if you lay him right, you can walk all over him for years” came one after the other. The audience loved it – the laughter never stopped.

Boyle showed excellent comedic timing of her delivery of her juicy jokes, and she also demonstrated good improv skills. She chatted with the audience members in the front row, even inviting a man on stage to dance with her. And no matter what the embarrassed guest said, Boyle was able to come back with a witty and titillating response.

If you’re a fan of racy humour don’t miss this fun wrap-up for the season. You will not only learn a history lesson about Sophie Tucker, you might also pick up some tips for the bedroom.

Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas! continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 2. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or (519) 882-1221 for tickets.

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