Theater Review: Food, Fun, and Fishnets from Philly’s Bearded Ladies Cabaret

By Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent

The terrific team of Dito Van Reigersberg, John Jarboe, and Sarah Gliko serves up a hilarious musical and culinary lesson in gay history with the Bearded Ladies’ original new delicacy, “My Dinner with Dito: A How to be Gay Cabaret.” Tracing the evolution of what it means to be gay through the three decades of their lives and into the future, Van Reigersberg and Jarboe have co-created a smart, touching, and thoroughly entertaining act that is at once socio-political and personal, side-splitting and thought-provoking, and even, at times, unexpectedly heart-wrenching.

Dito Van Reigersberg and John Jarboe star in the Bearded Ladies’ “My Dinner with Dito” (Photo credit: Plate 3 Photography)

Dito Van Reigersberg and John Jarboe star in the Bearded Ladies’ “My Dinner with Dito” (Photo credit: Plate 3 Photography)

Converting the Wilma Theater’s lobby into “the finest restaurant in Philadelphia,” with cabaret table seating, a Styrofoam bento box of small bites and drinks courtesy of London Grill and Paris Wine Bar, and live music (arranged by Heath Allen), the performers reminisce about their experiences and parody such icons of gay culture as Judy Garland, Cher, and “Mommy Dearest,” as they lead the audience through seven themed courses and twelve musical numbers.

The trio possesses powerful voices that hit all the right notes from pop, to show tunes, to semi-operatic, and Gliko, appearing as the waiter, also delights on flute and ukulele. The food servings are cleverly coordinated with the songs and stories, and the direction by K. Elizabeth Stevens is perfectly paced, humorous, and sensitive. Especially moving amidst the hilarity is the deeply confessional segment “Lonely Boy,” which left few dry eyes in the house. And particularly relevant is the well-observed acknowledgment that there is a trade-off between winning the fight for acceptance and equality (“Drag is SO safe now”), and feeling a real sense of nostalgia for the past’s secret camaraderie and excitement of being “different.”

“My Dinner with Dito” is a delicious and satiating treat; you’ll go in expecting it to be funny—which it most emphatically is—but you’ll come away filled with much, much more than just a lot of laughs. The show runs through July 27, at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St., Philadelphia. For information and tickets, call 215.893.9456 or visit http://www.wilmatheater.org.

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