By Constance Rodgers
“What is hip? Tell me, tell me if you think you know”, goes a 1973 song lyric. His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley (channeled by Jake Broder) knew. Buckley credited hipness to love, telling the truth about racism, jazz, marijuana, and honoring the saints as he saw them. And as Hip News Guy (Michael Lanahan) tells us, “Hipness implies a kind of civilized resistance”. A resistance to intolerance.
Broder riffs off of Lord Buckley’s original monologues bringing them into the present with humor and grace. For instance, in Broder’s version of Buckley’s Scrooge the ghost of Christmas past is “big Spook” a Native American in headdress, beads, fringe and porcupine quills who appears, “on a Standing Rock”. Scrooge himself is implied to be Trump.
His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley is performed in a nightclub setting, the audience seated around cocktail tables. There is a lovely bar at 59E59 Theaters and you can bring your drinks into the show. The show opens with a bebop jazz trio playing tunes of the great jazz composers like Ellington, Gillespie and Monk. On the cocktail tables are buttons for each theater goer with the lesson Lord Buckley wants us all to learn – “Don’t get mad. Love harder. #HipResistance”.
Jake Broder is a real renaissance man; an accomplished actor, writer, singer, saxophone and piano player. Broder is doing the world a great service by recreating Buckley’s unique political humor for contemporary times. The message of love, peace, joy, tolerance, respect, sharing, is particularly appropriate for Christmas time. But it is not corny at all. It is delivered with swing and hipsemantics, and comes at you sideways, hitting you upside the head.
Michael Lanahan as Hip News Guy and master of ceremonies is brilliant. He embodies the versatile male entertainers of the 50’s and 60’s that could sing, dance, tell a joke and all without mussing up their suits. Lanahan and Broder are both fabulous jazz singers and when they sing together you don’t want it to end.
There is so much that is funny and poignant and profound in this show but a few moments that stand out are Armstrong on the moon, Louis Armstrong that is, who when asked what he sees from there, the band, Buckley and Hip News Guy break into What A Wonderful World, “I see fields of green, red roses too”. Then there is calling President Barack Obama The Big O – “cause it feels so damn nice”, and the sadly still relevant piece Georgia where the song is interlaced with a white man harassing, and then lynching a black man just because he is black. Buckley’s 13th amendment is simply – Black Lives Matter.
I loved this show and may even go again, because, as Buckley says, “It’s good now and again to commune with your subconscious mind, and ask yourself just who in the hell do you think you are?”
North Coast Repertory Theatre presents:
HIS ROYAL HIPNESS LORD BUCKLEY – Written and Performed by JAKE BRODER, Based on the iconic works of Lord Buckley, Directed by DAVID ELLENSTEIN
Lighting and Sound Design: Aaron Rumley, Stage Manager: Norah Scheinman, Performance Rights granted by Lady Laurie Lord Buckley
At 59E59 Theaters through Jan 1, 2017. Performance schedule Tuesday-Thursday 7:15, Friday 8:15, Saturday 2:15 and 8:15, Sunday 3:15 and 7:15 Running Time: 1 hour 45 mins
Please note: Sat, Dec 24 & 31 at 2:15 & 5:15 only; No performances on Sun, Dec 25; Sun, Jan 1 at 3:15 only
Purchase Tickets from 59E59 Theaters , online, at box office or by phone (212) 279-4200