I’m Still Here, Me

Ricky Graham's One Man Show at Le Chat Noir

by Patrick Shannon, III, www.CrescentCityChronicles.net

?I’m Still Here, Me
Ricky Graham’s One Man Show at Le Chat Noir
A review by Patrick Shannon, III

“Ricky Graham is one of our town’s greatest theatrical treasures
and our best Ambassador representing the Soul of New Orleans.
This is a five star one-man show from our most talented Native
Son. He deserves our total support and endless applause.”

Looking like a sleek, svelte, land on your feet tomcat, Ricky
Graham, dressed in black from head to toe, came out on the stage;
and after his opening number said, “It takes a village to put on
a one man show...” he then generously gave credit to the
wonderful people who helped him with his show. Jefferson Tuner
his handsome and very talented Accompanist. Brian Johnson his
“quick as a whip” Stage Manager. Su Gonzcy for her technical
wizardry and all around hard work and Jason Knobloch for the
never failing high excellence of his sound designs. Cecile Casey
Covert for her elegant clothes and witty costume chapeaus. Mr.
Graham then proceeded to speak of his love of performance to the
audience; and in turn received a stand up ovation at his finale
from a full house of fans. They do love him and so do I!

Of course he made reference to his old friend and stellar Diva,
the one and only Becky Allen who has, along with Mr. Graham, come
to be an incarnation of the soul and essence of joyous,
irreverent New Orleans.

He lovingly made pot roasts out of a few local talents such as
the ageless, Chris Owens, in his stand up comedy routine. There
were naturally comic relief references to a certain Evil Bag of
Wind named Katrina; and in one reference he asked how many in the
audience had to stay with other people during their flight from
Miss Cat(tegory) Five. I said 9 million, since I was one of many
from our town who spent time in Manhattan (Mr. Graham suggested
that I have another drink, which I did.); but the prize for the
most suffering member of the audience went to a lady who had
camped out with what seemed like dozens of people and cats, dogs,
cows, pigs, chickens, geese, deer, wild Audubon Park sun bears,
and relatives who probably were released or escaped from mental
institutions. Her prize was one haute cuisine MRE (Meal Ready to
Eat). After the show Mr. Graham was seen autographing the brown
plastic parcel with panache.

He opened the show with a very clever version FEMA, a parody of
Miss Peggy Lees’s version of Fever. He wore a hat shaped like a
roof top covered in that Moroccan Blue color we have come to see
across 90 square miles of destruction. He certainly spooked FEMA
as he channeled Miss Peggy Lee’s most famous song, but was much
more animated than the old girl ever was when singing that one.

His version of I’m Not Goin’ from Dreamgirls was a laugh riot. He
used a lot of melissima, that moaning sound that twists one note
around for 10 minutes - and which is so over used by pop singers
and aspiring singers on those Most Talented In America TV
contest/reality shows.

I’m Still Here from Follies was a touching rewrite of that
glorious Stephan Sondheim song. The audience was quietly
attentive and moved.

A Muggy Wuggy Day in New Orleans by Fred Palmisano was also sung
with great feeling and audience identification. There were
moments when he sang certain songs that caused the full house to
be awed into respectful, nostalgic stillness as they pondered all
the sadness and devastation beyond the doors of Le Chat Noir. He
made many weep.

Mr. Graham brought out some of his familiar New Orleans
characters much to our delight.

Marie Antoinette Impastato, his beauty school gal, is one of my
favorites. With her mile high hair do and her attention to
gossip she reminds us so much of a couple of well known local
ladies I wish I could name.

Skanky and Ronnie Attorneys at Law was his clever satire on a
legal firm’s TV ad that offers two strange solutions to the local
dilemma of New Orleans needs.

His famous cavalier, don’t fuck with me Greater New Orleans
African American Meter Maid character was as funny as always -
even now that there are non to bother native car parkers with
their weaving cobra neck and head attitude stances.

Father Bargain NOLA’s Ark was another funny parody and the ever
favorite Every Day in Heaven is Mardi Gras was a grateful
reminder of the good old days when we looked forward to a Mardi
Gras which may not come this year.

His uptown Rex/Comus socialite related the funny story about a
cousin on Audubon Place who opened her Uptown mansion to what she
thought were OZ people (“Oh, they will redecorate!” she gushed,
”All those gay dance club, evacuees.”) But they were all from
our Ozanam Inn homeless shelter; and burned her house to the
ground. I only wonder if Mr. Graham knows the story of the
mansion that burned on Audubon Place?

His E-Yat-Cuee character planned to attend “Celebration in the
Oak” to get away from his family.

Chico was a new character he brought to life. Chico is working
to clean up New Orleans even though he’s from Ohio, he’s trying
to get a green card. In a hilarious moment, Mr. Graham dropped
out of character and looked down shyly and slyly, saying, “I am
such a whore,” a comment on his playing for laughter. Then he
continued on with an outrageous punch line.

His song series of New Orleans’ lost and gone landmarks was a
jingle of nostalgia that really works. At Ponchartrain Beach had
the audience clapping in rhythm to the old television commercial.

I don’t want to go into detail on all of his routines. It would
spoil them for you. So go see for yourself.

Among his songs was one dedicated to Yvette Hargis, who was in
the appreciative audience. It was the song, Step Right Up from
At the Club Tout Suite performed at Le Petit Theatre this year.
After the show Ms. Hargis summed up Mr. Graham’s performance as,
“Making fun with love.”

His song Home Is Where My Heart Is, written in New York when he
went there as a young performer, was a heart breaking show
stopper. Many, including myself, had tears in our eyes as he
sang this tribute to our town with such sincere feeling and
style. Home Is Where My Heart Is may well become a classic song
about New Orleans.

His finale was an upbeat routine about him as a child with his
mama. He became an disappointed/embarrassed little boy, when he
acted in this skit as he was told he would buying clothes “at
Holmes-es Husky Department, dawlin’.”

Jessica served that night and deserves mention; as all of Le Chat
Noir’s staff. She did a wonderful job with a full house and
little help, everyone grabbing at her for their cocktails. She
was Ms. Le Chat Noir incarnate that night, making her job seem so
chic and effortless. Barbara Motley, the owner, is a star that
shines brightly among our local Theatre supporters and we really
are grateful that she allowed us to see Mr. Ricky Graham, a local
star and a New Orleans icon, who single handedly has the talent
to yank at his audience’s hearts and also tweak their funny
bones. We all needed this combo of many talents and if you miss
this one, you miss one of the best.

Ricky et. al.: I’m so glad you’re still here, you!