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Review: Ditzyland

Varla Jean Merman, Ricky Graham and Sean Patterson send up the wonderful world of Disney



The allure of Walt Disney Pictures' animated movies and The Mickey Mouse Club show is the notion that anyone can grow up to be special. Even a princess. But Varla Jean Merman's pageant of Disney princesses in Ditzyland, an adult-minded homage to the Magic Kingdom, had the audience rolling in the aisles at Cafe Istanbul and likely had Walt Disney rolling in his grave.   The 90-minute musical show featured Merman at center stage in an array of bright gowns and big wigs, flanked by frequent collaborators Ricky Graham and Sean Patterson, with musical director Jefferson Turner on the piano. Merman started the evening of parody numbers as Peter Plate, whose lack of flying skills forced him to climb to the balcony, where he became stranded. Then the princess parade began and Merman appeared as a burqa-clad Jasmine from Aladdin, who engaged in a sort of striptease to fulfill the wishes of Patterson after some vigorous lamp rubbing. Varlarella endured jealous and wonderfully catty stepsisters played by Graham and Patterson before going to seduce her prince with something akin to twerking.   The madness reached a pinnacle in a number in which Varla performed both parts of a duet between The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Esmeralda and the hunchback Quasimodo. Wearing a shiny showgirl outfit, Esmeralda channeled Liza Minnelli and high-kicked and sailed through her bouncy, upbeat half and quickly donned a shawl and set of large buck teeth to complete the act in the gruff drawling of Quasimodo, at times ringing a dainty handheld bell.   The show dipped into much more salacious material as Sleeping Beauty dozed from a visit from Bill Cosby — and a tune spelling out "M-I-C-K-E-Y" brought the house down.   Graham appeared as Mary Poopins and the chimney sweep's song, "Chim Chim Cher-ee" was reworked into a local homage beginning "St. Tammany, St. Tammany... " The song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was reworked into "Tchoupitoulas," which the audience tried to keep up with in a singalong.   Another highlight was Sean Patterson's bald-headed solo, turning The Jungle Book's "The Bare Necessities" into "The Mayor's Necessities," sending up the removal of Confederate monuments as a distraction from New Orleans' other problems.   The song parodies were sharp, whether they trolled Disney with sexual innuendo or adapted tunes with local references and characters. Between songs, the show was full of catty banter between Merman, Graham and Patterson. The jokes came fast and furious, including some familiar ones, and every song was a winner. A couple of singalong finale numbers showed everyone was in the mood to go to Ditzyland.

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