The Carnegie Hall Show Gets Nostalgic

kurt smeaton, naomi snieckus and chris gibbs
in the carnegie hall birthday show
A sea of people packed the Bread and Circus Theatre last Wednesday to celebrate the first anniversary of The National Theatre of the World’s The Carnegie Hall Show. Every Wednesday for the past year Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram and Chris Gibbs, with Jeff Raimondo on the piano, have donned their very best bib and tuck to celebrate the ordinary and to glamorize the mundane. On this particular Wednesday, however, everyone looked especially dapper. The always lovely Naomi Snieckus looked expressly gorgeous in her beautiful dress and her hair in a French braid twist and Matt Baram, Chris Gibbs, Jeff Raimondo and their guests Kurt Smeaton and Waylen Miki (guest musical director) all were absolutely dashing in their freshly pressed tuxedos.
It speaks wonders of these incredibly talented performers and the unique and continually entertaining show that they have created that their packed house was howling with laughter even as Snieckus welcomed them, introduced the performers and made mention of the individuals whose continual support has kept The Carnegie Hall Show gracing the stage every week for a year. The evening began in earnest with the musical styling of very special guest Judy Marshak who sang “Broken Radio” and then later returned with “A Matter of Time” both songs from her new album A Matter of Time which will have its official launch party on November 16th at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas Street West). Marshak has a really lovely, unique, jazzy voice that harkens back to a classier time.
From the crooked bowtie of Kurt Smeaton came The Carnegie Hall retrospective, in which the Carnegie Hall players celebrated the greatest improvised Cereal scenes of all time. I always enjoy it so much when Kurt Smeaton joins the cast of this show because he is a brilliantly imaginative improviser with a gift for creating extremely quirky, dubiously charming characters. He also has a brilliant way with words and is able to conjure up the most poetical lines, and sometimes surprisingly profound epigrams, with both swiftness and simplicity. One of the delights of the evening was watching the improvised “Nutcracker Kids” scene in which Smeaton, Baram and Gibbs played a Dickensian trio akin to the pickpockets in Oliver! named Jiminy, Pippin and Monkey who were led in a brilliant and rousing production number “Go Home to Nuthin’” by Snieckus who sought to inspire them to give cereal to the poor with unselfish open hearts.
Another recurring feature at The Carnegie Hall Show is a performance by Cleopatra Williams and the Carnegie Hall Show Dancers. On Wednesday we were treated to her rendition of “Don’t Tell Mama” from Cabaret. Williams has a fantastic voice, heaps of stage presence and all the seductiveness of the very best of burlesque. The dancers are all very talented and their choreography is always done in a familiar style to suit the chosen song, but also has its own originality and flair as well. Not all the girls are quite as crisp in their movements as Williams is, but I think that just has to do with limited rehearsal time and is not a reflection on the dancers’ individual talents.
Of course The Carnegie Hall Show would not be complete without its live, improvised radio play, The Dark Room brought to you by O’Connell’s Brisket and directed by Matt Baram. It is here that anything truly can and will happen. Chris Gibbs may pull a pint of beer and a Caplansky’s smoked meat sandwhich out of the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket. Matt Baram may forget the name of the character he invented twelve seconds before as Naomi Snieckus speaks in an undetermined accent. Kurt Smeaton may then unite the room in awe as he manages to tie a story woven of loose ends together with the single reflection that “a heart is a lot like an umbrella, it only works when it’s open.” Kapow.
The Carnegie Hall Show, at one whole year old, is growing into its mustache and definitely saying the darndest things. So, if you have a penchant for cereal rapists and explaining Nazis and tall is long in your language, you should absolutely head down to the Bread and Circus (299 Augusta Avenue) next Wednesday for some old-fashioned, entirely improvised, frolicking and frivolous frivolity.
Happy Birthday, Carnegie Hall. Don’t get spanked too hard.

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