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Life Is A Punk-Rock Holiday Cabaret

By Suzy Evans in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 24, 2009 6:20PM

2009_11_Barker_2.jpg Remember Molly Brennan? That girl who played Harpo Marx? Remember how we wrote about her not so long ago? Well, we’re not going to hide the fact that we’re fans, which is why we’re writing again to say you should really check out Madame Barker’s Holiday Variety Show at the Prop Theatre.

Brennan performs the show, which will run for the next three Fridays, with jazz composer John Fournier. The pair has worked together with Second City Theatricals and local theater company 500 Clown and created the Madame Barker character, a timeless nightclub singer with a punk rock twist, during 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal. “I came up with Madame Barker, and Molly came up with this outfit,” Fournier says. “And then when Madame Barker became the master of ceremonies of the Elephant Deal, we made the show into a cabaret style. You could see how that act was an act within a play.”

Fournier and Brennan have performed the act on two previous occasions, and this version will be holiday themed and feature local Chicago celebrities, including Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless on December 4 and 11. Bayless is a board member of 500 Clown, and he’ll be making guacamole with Brennan’s 500 Clown comrades Adrian Danzig and Paul Kalina. But we’re familiar with the group's antics so we’re wondering if the guacamole will be edible. “All I can say is Paul (Kalina) said, ‘Can I bring my sledgehammer?’ And I said, ‘Sure, we’ll just have to put plastic on everything,’” Brennan says, quite seriously. “I don’t know if people will eat the guacamole.”

Other guests include magician David Kovac and comedian F. Tyler Burnet (on Nov. 27) and finally the Barker Dames, the “gorgeous and terrifying” back up dancers. “They are modeled on my kind of signature performance which is being able to go from someone who is articulate to someone who’s very snarly and frightening,” Brennan explains. We also got a glimpse at the festive outfits, which Brennan is sewing herself, and they’re certainly fit for entertainment.

All the evenings’ songs are by Fournier with many from 500 Clown shows. Our personal favorite, of the songs we recognized, is “My Love Will Kick Your Ass,” a rock inspired torch song that will resound in your head for weeks to come. (Brennan and Fournier recorded this song to be released around the time of the show.) There will also be Christmas tunes from 500 Clown Christmas and other songs by Fournier. The show’s schtick may be crass and drinking is highly encouraged, and Fournier says having a good time is the only message of the evening. “I want it to feel like you’ve stepped into something with world-class entertainers," Fournier says. "They just happened to be entertaining you in this bawdy style.”

Madame Barkers Holiday Variety Show runs three Fridays - November 27, December 4, and December 11 - at the Prop Theatre, 3502 N Elston, 11 p.m., tickets are $10 and can be purchased here