40th Providence Newspaper Guild’s Follies
Monday, February 25, 2013
The 40th anniversary edition of the Follies, ironically staged at the Venus de Milo in Massachusetts, was packed with close to 900 of Rhode Island's politicians, local celebrities, social activists, union leaders and (of course) media. As they do on the last Friday of every February since 1973, Rhode Island's glitterati flock for the prime rib and ribbing they receive from a motley cast of comic cabaret performers.
Just a few of the guests spotted over the Lobster Newburg included Senator Jack Reed, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Union Leader Mike Downey all rubbing elbows and enjoying a nice break from the political friction that often consumes Rhode Island in hot debate. In other words, the pols take of their crowns and hand them over to stand-ups and impersonators who douse the flames with a much needed bucket of laughs.
The Follies flock of '12 did not disappoint. Local stand-up legend, Frank O'Donnell brought his dry sense of humor to the stage and warmed up the crowd between acts. Some of the most notable were “Flesh Start” introducing the show to the tune of Michael Jackson's Thriller. “Ode to Our Roads” parodying Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire with a chorus including “I fell into a hole that popped my tire, I hit ground downtown and the claims piled higher, and it burns burns burns like a ring of fire, my busted tire.” “Red Cup Kids” about the children of local politicians busted for boozing and partying set to the tune of Summer Nights from “Grease.”
The best acts of the night were hard to choose. Perennial favorite characters, Joey and Angie, played to tongue in cheek perfection by Joe Natale and Steph McKenna. At one point Joey mentioned something about knowing something about connecting with the unemployment call center and Angie told him “You don't know ugatz!” This is especially funny considering Natale is employed by the DLT as an unemployment insurance, call center representative. “I Dreamed of Gina” (to the music of the Kinks' Lola) showed off Tracy McGraw's spot on impersonation of Rhode Island's General Treasurer as she fist pumped and tore idea after idea from a yellow legal pad, tossing them nonchalantly into the crowd. The lyrics made great use of the rhyme and rhetoric of C-O-L-A, COLA. Scott MacKay did what Scott does best by presenting a comic monologue with just the right combination of sugar and spice.
The two that brought the house down, however, were close to the end. “Linc Unchained” which was a wild dance number by the world's best Chafee impersonator (and possibly the world's only Chafee impersonator), James Brown. Brown bounced and horse-bucked across the stage to the tune of Psy's Gangnam Style.
The best of the night was the special mystery guest: Congressman Jim Langevin. Langevin did a political comedy routine that may well have rivaled the likes of Bill Maher or Louis Black. Speaking with Langevin after the show, he stated “what happens at the follies, stays at the follies.” However, he did make a fantastic comment about Chafee being unable to attend due to being at a conference in Washington. But the Governor was able to attend. Then he said hello to Gina Raimondo. (rim shot!)
All in all the 40th Follies were a great evening of combining mustache-twirling, nastiness and a friendly coming together of, to often, rivals who were able to laugh with one another and at themselves.
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