"The Ruby Besler Cabaret" at the Fringe is a Feast

After seeing The Ruby Besler Cabaret, I have one thing of timely importance to say: There are only 3 shows left. Buy tickets. Why? The show is not only a feast for the eyes, but for the heart, mind, and let’s not forget, ears.

Let’s begin at the top: Four leggy showgirls, Regan Carrington, Tatiana Giannoustsos, and Laurel Vecsey choreographed by fellow dancer Flame Cynders set the mood with precision-propelling white feather fans a la Swan Lake. To your right, talented Gere Fennelly plays piano, adding to the cabaret atmosphere. Then she comes on stage through the red velvet backdrop: Ruby Besler, the cabaret star, played by Anastasia Barnes, with an astonishing vocal range.

Ruby lulls us into the story of her life, which is told with the effective device of storybook chapters.

Barnes plays both Ruby’s mother, a reformed prostitute who married Klaus, Ruby’s German father, whom Barnes also plays, accent and all. Ruby recounts her teenage angst, her first jobs, including that of a cigarette girl who can’t keep out of the show. And then there’s her first love: Beats, who she can’t marry because marriage is bad business for a rising star. Barnes’ wistful song post marriage rejection is reminiscent of “Gloomy Sunday” and may bring you to tears.

As Ruby Besler, Barnes is mesmerizing, instantly lovable by her flaws, sincerity and unabashed humor. How did she nail the quintessential 1940s starlet accent that Barnes calls “standard American,” but is reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn’s Bryn Mawr? She grew up with her grandparents and their effusion of big band music and old black and white classics. Her flawlessly coiffed hair? That she taught herself from a Youtube video. I can tell you these things because Ruby Besler is such a multifaceted, jaunty dame, it won’t take away from her mystery. —June 22, 2013