A bio cabaret by South African Erik DeWaal seeks to recall just how red-hot that mama better known as Sophie Tucker really was in the first half of the 20th century.
Melanie Gall, who has performed the works of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel at the festival, takes on the persona of the big, brassy, buxom vaudeville headliner known as the queen of the double entendre. DeWaal broadly sketches a portrait of a true American original who defied convention about weight, gender and propriety with her saucy comic banter and songs.
The structure of having the star perform in a cabaret is overworked, but it does allow the powerhouse Alberta vocalist to belt out Tucker classics like Some of These Days, My Yiddishe Momma and the title tune, as well as toss off raunchy jokes that were shocking for the times. In between, details of her life story are meted out perfunctorily and Gall barely moves.
Tucker was proudly full-figured but DeWaal can’t squeeze enough of her into such a skinny format.
— Kevin Prokosh