About ten years ago, our theatre company was getting ready to tackle one of the few “straight” shows we’ve ever done — by which I mean a show that’s already written, with a proven track-record of production on stage. The show was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and it was kind of a monster. It required working with a lot of people we’d never met, including a rock and roll band and a complete cast of producers. To make matters more complex, we ran it at One Eyed Jacks, a bona fide rock and roll club in the middle of the French Quarter, meaning that our sets, costumes, and everything else had to be broken down every night so that a half-dozen punk bands could take the stage after we’d finished.
For all the work it requires, though, Hedwig is a small show — really, there’s just one lead, with a supporting actress, with the band pitching in from time to time. As a result, many of our regulars had nothing to do during the production. That was frustrating because the two reasons we started the theatre company in the first place were to (1) entertain ourselves, and (2) let the cast and crew earn some cash doing what they loved.
Around the same time, we wound up talking to Barbara Motley, the owner of Le Chat Noir, a very swanky theatre in the middle of the arts district. How we won Barbara over, how we convinced her that our lowbrow humor would be a good fit for her higher-brow audiences is beyond me, but we did it. And so, in the middle of Hedwig, we wound up running a second show: Kiki le Bonbon’s Cabaret Oh-La-La.
It wasn’t a great idea. The show was loose — probably too loose — and in our late-night slot, the audiences were slim. But we had fun, and the owner had fun, and a friendship was born.
Many, many productions later, the building that houses Le Chat is up for sale, and although the owner is committed to keeping Le Chat alive — even if it means moving to a new venue — no one’s sure what the future holds. So at the moment, it looks like our June show could be the last theatrical production on the Le Chat stage.
I originally wanted to put together a show that would serve as a tribute to Le Chat — something sweet with a bit of heart to it. In the end, though, nothing seemed right, nothing seemed organic, nothing seemed “us”. And so, we’ve opted for the obvious: a mashup of Mommy Dearest, Mildred Pierce, and some other Hollywood fodder. It may not be what we’d envisioned, but if the readthrough last night is any indication, we’re going to all go down laughing. (Which is, of course, how we like it.)