"The Broad's Way," an Evening of Cabaret With Becky Fisher
When Bette Midler famously wrapped a towel-turban around her head and burst into bawdy song for the Continental Baths crowd in 1970, cabaret sendups found their home in seedy gay splendor. It's fitting that the Parliament House cozy piano bar isn't quite as seedy a venue as a bathhouse, because Becky Fisher isn't quite so self-deprecatingly outrageous as the Divine Miss M.
The Broad's Way shines as a mix-tape diary of Fisher's own experiences, although it isn't really chronological, but more a pastiche of sundry emotional overextensions suited best by show tunes, accompanied adeptly by longtime friend Rich Charon. She segues from singing that "happiness is a thing called Joe" — her husband of 18 years, Joe, sits by the mini-stage throughout the show — to "If," a song about a cheating Joe, sprinkling spoken bits of her own story throughout. If it seems uncomfortable, it isn't.
Fisher's renowned professional humor allows a wry detachment that's more about sharing a story than killing it. (She's currently also starring in Menopause, the Musical, and she held her own among Wanzie's crew in the nearly criminal The Lion Queen at the 2006 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.) Take the music out of any past equations and she's still been a faithfully forceful stage presence.
Selections from Chess, Nina Simone and (oddly) the Police follow on a whimsical pattern. You don't have to be a musical-theater snob — the kind who knows that Idina Menzel followed her performance in Wicked with a short run in the more experimental See What I Want to See — to know that "Coffee," a number from the latter, is painfully hilarious in its performance-art refrain of "It's all about the coke, the coke, the coke." In fact, you'd better not be a snob of any kind when you hear Fisher's reworking of "Fever" into "Beaver." Oh, yes she did. (6 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 9, at the Parliament House; $10; 407-425-7571; www.parliamenthouse.com)
— Billy Manes
Out of Darkness — The Contemporary Revival of Early Photography Damn us — we've been so excited about this edgy traveling exhibit snagged by the UCF Gallery but haven't been able to traverse to the university side of town in a timely manner because of Halloween this and Thanksgiving that. The institutional hours and parking puzzle out on the campus don't help either — it's not a quick trip. But here it is, with one week and counting before the show gets packed up, so it simply must be said: If you're a photographer or a photography lover, you do not want to miss this display of work by 11 "cutting-edge photographers" who've returned to the genre's early techniques, eschewing digital advances.
Among the artists are Chuck Close, Sally Mann, Jerry Spagnoli and Abelardo Morell, all of whom have submerged themselves in the fussy ways and stinky chemicals that ran in the veins of the pioneers. Processes and tools represented include daguerreotypes, cyanotypes and tintypes, camera obscuras and pinhole cameras.
Bottom line: These photographers, who well know the instant gratification of digital technology, are reviving what are now considered old-fashioned techniques to turn their visions into reality. The old-school styles take more time and can be laborious but are an art form of their own. While we wish the gallery could be beamed over to a more central location for our convenience, that's not going to happen. This is another part of UCF that won't be moving downtown soon. So strap yourself in for a ride. (through Dec. 6 at UCF Art Gallery, Visual Arts Building, University of Central Florida; free; 407-823-3161; www.art.ucf.edu)
— Lindy T. Shepherd— Lindy T. Shepherd
Not all downtown locations promise easy access. Caught in the gridlock around Orlando City Hall are our underutilized public galleries that are resplendent by local-gallery standards. Parking is a nightmare; even if you find a spot in front of City Hall and feed the meter, just getting in and out of your car puts you at risk of being sideswiped by heavy Orange Avenue traffic. Like the UCF Art Gallery, hours of operation are institutional, plus you have to go through a security screening to get to the works that fill the second- and third-floor hallways serving as gallery space for mostly Orlando artists.
Security clearances don't apply to the first-floor Terrace Gallery, where a gold mine of artistic visions have been curated by Pamela Ocaña as part of her dissertation. As a means of expressing the multicultural infusion that's changing our community, she brings together seven well-respected artists who now call Central Florida home, though they were born and raised in other countries.
Camilo Velásquez of Columbia displays his burnt matchstick constructions, spiritual statements to the people in his life. Rigoberto Torres of Puerto Rico's sculptures sit large as life. They are typically formed from acrylic-painted gypsum cement, such as his self-portrait that splits his head into seven slices, mounted on a wall like a trophy. Several of Hadi A. Abbas of Iraq's "Stonewear Platters" are earthen-made discs that appear celestial: one resembles a mix of cloudy and blue skies and another looks like a comet-filled dark canvas.
Oil portraits by Abraham Gebremichael of Africa capture dark-skinned subjects, including an adorable female toddler dolled up in white with a dove over her shoulder, titled "Hope," and another titled "Mr. Dewey Williams" that captures a wrinkly, pursed-lip elder with a jauntily cocked hat and amused, seen-it-all eyes.
A pastel on paper by Rima Jabbur of Lebanon captivates; there's a woman and a man, she standing, reaching down to grasp his outstretched arm from his sitting position. Their bodies have the poise of dancers caught in movement; the couple's energy is passionate with expressions that could either be caused by pain or pleasure or both.
Jagdish J. Chavda of India offers finely detailed watercolors composed mostly of the ornate architecture in his country, though one features a quixotic woman looking out of a palatial window but hidden from public view.
Peter Schreyer's painstaking documentary photography is represented by pieces from his various collections, such as a picture of the eccentric Safari Room at the Langford Resort Hotel before it was torn down and a striking environmental shot of two bridges over the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. (through Jan. 7 at the Terrace Gallery at Orlando City Hall; free; 407-246-4279)