Andrea Bell Wolff
Adventures in Vegas
Don’t Tell Mama
December 1, 2021 at 8:00 pm

By Sarah Downs

Andrea Bell has a story to tell and boy is it fun.  In her sparkly sequined minidress, Ms. Wolff belts an esoteric lineup of songs by everyone from Sara Bareilles to Mark Shaiman to Tom Waits.  It is the soundtrack to the diverting story of her one-year stint as a showgirl in Las Vegas at the tender age of 19.  She was perhaps the most petite showgirl ever, as Ms. Wolff must stand a little over 5 feet.

Before Vegas, and with her youthful look and appropriately girlish voice, Ms. Wolff starred in the role of Minnie Fay in Hello Dolly, which she played in the first National Tour with Carol Channing at the age of 16 1/2. She then went into the Broadway company with Betty Grable (while still a teen and living in an apartment in the theater district). Ultimately, Wolff appeared in 5 different productions on Broadway and on tour, clearly earning her the title of Broadway “Showgirl.”

However, a life in the theater is so much about watching, waiting, wanting, – and so often just missing that big break, and Wolff’s rendition of  “Moving the Line” (Marc Shaiman/Scott Whitman) arranged in a cheeky burlesque tempo by music director Jude Obermüller, says it all.  Thus, after starring in the role of Minnie Fay, as well as playing the funny but far less interesting role of Ermengarde, it was time to look around for something new. Lured to a promising gig in Las Vegas, she took off for the desert, to perform in the Bottoms Up Review. It was 1969.

Utilizing the conceit of reading from her diary,  Ms. Wolff proceeds through her year in a series of humorous vignettes.  However, since this is her real-life story, the show rang with a pleasant authenticity, with a diverse set of music from raucous tunes like “Bounce Your Boobies“ (Rusty Warren) to a winsome “Dance with Somebody” (Shannon Rubicam/George Merrill).  These contrasting and surprising arrangements, including another welcome dash of Burlesque in the “Hot Dog Song” (Tausha Hammad/Clarance Williams) added to the unexpected.

Supporting Ms. Wolff, Elliott Litherland does yeoman’s service in a variety of cameos roles.  He is a good sport, juggling props and quick costume changes, at times of necessity folding his tall frame almost in half to reach Wolff.  Their height difference adds to the charm.  Litherland is also an excellent singer, showing off his voice in the song “Keep on Running” (Jackie Edwards) with it’s refreshing 1960/70’s beat.

Video footage and still projections carried the spirit of reminiscence of a year in the life of Burlesque comedy review, opening for stars like Englebert Humperdinck.  Nevertheless, the ups and down of this consequential year took its toll, as reflected in the melancholy “Clown” (Emeli Sandé/Shahid Khan/Grant Mitchell), in which Ms. Wolff displays a clear stillness that draws you in.  The solemnity is greatly enhanced by drummer Doug Hinrichs’ dramatic hush on the cymbals, Sam Zerna’s lyrical bowing of the bass, and Obermüller’s spare, thoughtful piano.

In centering her show around this adventure in Las Vegas, Ms. Wolff gives us a peek into an era and experience about which most would know very little.  However, as she notes “In the beginning it’s all fun and excitement and in the end it’s ‘where is all my money?’”  One year – one eventful year – was enough.  The glitter had flaked off and it was time to return to New York.  And yet the end of one adventure was merely the invitation to embark on another.  After all, New York is the City of Dreams.

This show will reprise in January. Check back to www.cabarethotspot.com for details.

Vocals:  Andrea Bell Wolff
Guest Appearance:  Elliott Litherland
Director: Jimmy Larkin
Music Director/Accompanist: Jude Obermüller
Bass: Sam Zerna
Percussion: Doug Hinrichs

Photo Credit: Gen Nishino