Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Mad Men Revue at the El Rey Theatre

A small group of us had the opportunity earlier this week to attend "A Night Out On The Town With Mad Men" at the El Rey Theatre in LA. The supporting cast of one of the best television series (in my opinion) performed songs from the show's era live on stage. Serving as a fundraiser for The Recording Academy Los Angeles' educational programs (we each donated $20), it was a night of belting, dancing, vamping, blushing, cracking wise, and generally giving notice that even without the presence of the big stars (no Hamm, Moss, Slattery, Hendricks, Jones, or Kartheiser), the actors of Mad Men are addictive as nicotine and more talented than Peggy Olsen on Popsicles.

I've never been to the El Rey. The only thing Brooke and I really knew about the venue was that Lykke Li was performing there in early November (now sold out). As we waited in line, we saw members of the cast saunter by us en route to the red carpet. No sense of urgency, no "better than thou" attitude, just sequins, hairspray and a few 40s style party dresses. As we entered the venue we were immediately welcomed by an endless supply of Chivas Regal cocktail drinks.

Our emcee for the night was Joel "Freddy Rumsen" Murray, who admirably piloted the ship after opening by encouraging us to "Keep sippin' the Chivas, because the more you sip, the smoother this'll all go." One by one, he introduced his castmates, as MM composer David Carbonara (and the Chivas Thirteen) kept brassy time behind them: Mark "Duck Phillips" Moses channeling Ol' Blue Eyes's voice on "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"; Allison "Trudy Campbell" Brie abusing a white fur stole during Sammy Kaye's "Daddy"; Maggie "Rachel Menken" Siff throwing down a take on "Black Coffee" so vicious it could very well have summoned a facial expression out of Don Draper himself; and Robert "Bert Cooper" Morse proving he's not so much acting on the show while delivering his wonderfully dotty performance of "I Believe In You" straight to creator Matthew Weiner.

Some highlights:
- Bryan "Salvatore Romano" Batt and a gaggle of dancing girls brought the house down with Dean Martin's "Sway"
- Michael "Paul Kinsey" Gladis confessed it was only "the better part of a bottle of bourbon" that got him on stage with his acoustic guitar for a heartfelt Dylan number--"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"--complete with a lyrical false start that he blamed on Weiner's presence. This error was more than negated by the fact that, while every other man on stage was buttoned up in a Brooks Brothers tux, Gladis was fetchingly in shirtsleeves, suspenders, and undone bow tie, as though the end of the night had already come and gone and we were down in the Village with Rosemary DeWitt or something

All in all it was an unexpected, thrilling night. We met Salvatore at the end of the evening, saw the very pregnant Jennifer Garner mingling about and had some good laughs. These folks aren't just paper dolls moved about between nicely art-directed ashtrays--they are professionals, with a thousand years of Broadway and regional theater experience among them. This "Night on the Town with Mad Men" not only made me like the show better (not hard; I'm still crabby about what they did to poor Peggy last season), but gave me hope that for every Hills spinoff, there might be another one of these sorts of programs upon which real actors supply a real craft and make real art for everyone who's got the patience to soak it all in.

(courtesy of