I’ve Been to Sea Before, a cabaret-drag show inspired by Joni Mitchell’s Blue, is a show with something for everyone. Joni Mitchell fan or not, it is a wonderful evening with everything expected from a good cabaret-drag show (great music, fabulous costumes, audience participation) and a few unexpected surprises (adopted manatees, obscure Disney movies, Red Lobster bibs).
Blue is a deeply personal album and doesn’t obviously lend itself to a humorous drag show. However, Salty Brine re-imagines these songs in a way that is often hysterically funny and sometimes melancholic but always respectful of the original material. The two-member band, Ian Axness and Brent Arnold, also impressively move from instrument to instrument, covering piano, cello, accordion, and more. They also chip in on Salty Brine’s comedic bits as a sea captain, a vacation fling, and other bit parts, and they both have such natural comedic timing that they almost run away with the show.
As entertaining as they are, though, Salty Brine is the star of this show, and she is a whole lot of fun to watch on stage. Her humor is random and weird and very much in line with my sensibilities, from her serenading a little lost manatee to a dramatic retelling of the plot of The Rescuers Down Under. (The latter joke divided the audience sharply, with all the Disney kids laughing loudly and the rest trying to remember their college literature classes. Was there a Greek myth about a boy and his eagle friend?)
The best gauge of whether someone will enjoy I’ve Been to Sea Before, though, is her rendition of “River,” which she sings as a Red Lobster waitress working on Christmas Eve. She drapes bibs around audience member’s necks while rattling off the dinner specials and singing, “Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” It is hilariously dark and a little sad, and it rounds out a terrific original cabaret show.
I’ve Been to Sea Before opened April 8 at the Red Room, located at 85 East 4th Street. It will run through April 29 as part of Salty Brine’s on-going Spectacular Living Record Collection Cabaret series. Tickets are $10 with a two-drink minimum and available at the door or online here.
April 8, 15, 22, and 29
Doors open at 7:30 PM, Show at 8:00 PM
Directions to the Red Room: