Review: Seth Sikes Performs Highly Entertaining Tribute to Gay Music Icons

by John Amodeo

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 24, 2022
Originally published on January 25, 2022

For a number of years now, New York-based cabaret performer Seth Sikes has been performing his highly entertaining tribute show "Me and My Gals: Seth Sikes Sings Judy and Liza and Barbra etc" in New York at Feinstein's/54 Below, in Provincetown, and in LGBTQ-friendly Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, at The Palm Cabaret, where he performed Friday night, Jan. 21, to cheers and thunderous applause.

Boston audiences will get a rare treat this Saturday, February 26, when this bright, fun and talented performer makes his Boston debut with this same show at the Club Cafe's Moonshine Room. 

While the title may call to mind any number of drag queens impersonating these great ladies of song, this show is no cabaret cliche. Instead, this charming, handsome and out singer pays tribute to them by taking us on his own autobiographical journey recounting how these women influenced his life using some of their famous signature tunes as well as a few more obscure ones to take us through the high (and low) points of his life. From growing up gay in Paris, Texas, and his sometimes-hapless love life to becoming an assistant director to such Broadway shows as "The Band's Visit," and off-Broadway shows as "Pageant," Sikes lets us know right away that each stage of his life was shaped by his fascination, one might even say healthy obsession, with these women.

Though it takes a little while for Sikes to get his show in full gear, once he gets going, it is obvious he is channeling these women as he sings, fueled by the same passion, drive and reckless abandon that made them famous. What's more, Sikes, a powerful belter, has the vocal chops to take on the songbooks of Judy, Liza, and Barbra, and knock them out of the park, throwing in some Bernadette Peters and Dorothy Loudon for good measure. Though he begins his renditions with unassuming sweetness, don't let that fool you. The big finish is on its way each time and will absolutely send chills down your spine. 

His smooth tenor and rich vibrato are well suited to such Minnelli hallmarks as "Ring Them Bells," which he gives a comical gay spin, and Garland greats as "The Trolley Song," and "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," the latter a 1912 minstrel song that Garland sang in the 1941 film musical "Babes on Broadway." Sikes turns the minstrel ditty into a zany parody on another of his favorite ladies of song, Patti LuPone.

Like another lady of song he barely mentions but is clearly influenced by, Bette Midler, Sikes moves deftly from humor to pathos, offering a deliciously risqué Bernadette Peters number then turns on a dime to deliver a dramatically show stopping "Stormy Weather" that Judy herself would have declared "well done!" 

Sikes is very clever, using Garland's "Born in a Trunk" from "A Star is Born" with customized new lyrics as a storytelling device allowing his upbringing as a lover of MGM's great musical divas to unfold, then weaving in Bernadette Peters' "Letter Home" from "Song and Dance," again with his own lyrics, to chart a humorous course through his mercurial love life. His charm and self-deprecating humor draw you in, even if some of his quips don't always hit their mark.

Using video at a couple of points to turn his show into a multimedia event, Sikes sings along to skillfully edited videos of himself in various situations that help advance his story, demonstrating just what a good assistant director he must be.

In the show at The Palm Cabaret, Sikes's parody lyrics for some of the songs were very Puerto Vallarta-specific, which went over really well with the mostly gay crowd the club attracts. Given his creative skills, he may tailor lyrics specifically to each of the towns in which he plays though it remains to be seen if he'll work some Boston references into the Club Café show. Also, in The Palm Cabaret show, Sikes was supported by the extraordinary Mark Hartman on the piano, who's phrasing and virtuosic embellishments were perfectly timed to Sikes' wordplay antics and physical comedy, making him an apt accomplice.

All this adds up to a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts, a delightfully entertaining evening of intimate storytelling and theatrical vocals that will leave you smiling for the rest of the evening. Seth Sikes is someone to keep your eye on. 

Seth Sikes performs "Me and My Gals: Seth Sikes sings Judy and Liza and Barbra etc." at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Club Cafe's Moonshine Room, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA, 02116. Tickets: $35. For reservations, visit https://www.clubcafe.com/events/seth-sikes-sings-judy/

Sikes returns to The Palm Cabaret, Puerto Vallarta with the same show starting at 6 p.m. on March 11, 18, and 25. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, located at Olas Altas 508, or by visiting https://thepalmcabaret.com/seth-sikes/

John Amodeo is a free lance writer living in the Boston streetcar suburb of Dorchester with his husband of 23 years. He has covered cabaret for Bay Windows and Theatermania.com, and is the Boston correspondent for Cabaret Scenes Magazine.