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Cleveland--The 33rd annual Womyn’s Variety Show last weekend hosted over 500 women at a new location that was as well received as the performers taking the stage.
The pastoral setting and winding road leading to Park Synagogue’s Kangesser Hall treated women to a private viewing of a group of deer as they made their way to the Cleveland Heights venue.
Once inside, the auditorium was filled to near capacity, while a large room behind the last row of seats was prepared to host the Fabulous Variety Show Party afterwards.
The February 16 show, which lasted about an hour and a half, was emceed by Iris Bishop.
“She’s been doing this for years,” said producer Marcia Sindelar of Oven Productions. “Iris was relaxed, confident and so very funny, pulling from her own personal experience and talking about things we can all relate to.”
The show opened with the Jane Dean’s high energy performance of “Don’t Say It” and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The popular women’s band was a great way to open the show and set the pace for a memorable evening.
Next up was a comedy routine by Amber Womack. She began by letting the audience in on a secret.
“Hi. My name is Amber and I’m an addict,” she began.
“Hi Amber!” the audience responded in unison, then a chuckle at their familiarity with recovery programs.
Maura Rogers treated the crowd to her “Mae West Girl” and her rich vocals and skillful piano playing.
Emcee Bishop, in addition to introducing each number, spent a few moments testing sign language interpreter Dawn Barbey, seeing how she would sign some of the more colorful words used to describe parts of a woman’s anatomy. Barbey’s response was as quick-witted and funny as anything the audience would see as many hoped Bishop would continue to test her skills.
“Dawn’s been our interpreter for years and just really pulls it together, said Sindelar. “I find myself watching her a lot too because she’s so visual and expressive and beautiful!”
Longtime performer Jan Held shared her poem “A Walk Down Lesbian Lover Lane” that had many in the audience laughing or sighing, empathizing with her feelings of longing and loving.
Newcomer Judie Wimmer played guitar and sang her “Ghost in the Mirror” number embracing healing and survival.
The talent just kept on with the thunderous crowd welcoming renowned national recording artist Alexis Antes, flawlessly performing Cindi Lauper’s “I’ll Be Your River.”
Michelle Inks proved that Elvis is alive and well and indeed in the house with her lip-synced version of “Suspicious Minds.”
The trio Telling Point garnered a standing ovation following their two song set of “Darker” and Pink’s “Dear Mr. President” while marking their first appearance at the show.
Fans of the Cleveland blues group Swamp Boogie Band were treated to a standout performance by member Betsy Marshall singing and playing piano on “Down and Out” while delighting the audience with her playful interaction with interpreter Barbey as she sang, signed and danced.
Peggi Cella’s talent-filled quartet also played two classics, “You Took Advantage of Me” and “Cry me a River,” that had the crowd on their feet.
Another recording artist, Robin Stone, performed her original “When You Go Home Today,” soulfully recounting her first and last visit to her mother’s grave.
The evening’s line-up concluded with the Cleveland Kings and Gals’ performance of “Don’t Want to Go to Work.” An audience member was overheard making the ultimate compliment for female-to-male illusionists: “I thought only women were performing tonight.”
“The talent seemed elevated this year,” Sindelar noted. “Everyone was so different and yet so spectacular in their presentation and sound.”
The final curtain call signaled the start of the Fabulous Party, where the crowd was treated to DJs Freeze and Debra offering a large variety of music to cover many musical tastes on the dance floor.
Partygoers enjoyed a tastefully decorated room with a spacious dance floor, bar, sober support space and booths featuring merchandise from some of the performers and information tables staffed by campaign workers for LGBT-friendly candidates.
Elizabeth Berry read a statement from the non-partisan Oven Productions, reminding attendees to vote. She predicted that “whoever wins Ohio will likely become president.”
Sindelar offered kudos to the expertise of the people behind the scenes on the show.
“The whole crew was wonderful--the stage crew, lights, miking, sober support, door and party crew, clean-up and stage manager Debra Hirshberg all just really enhanced the talents of all the performers,” she said. “And although many of the same people come back to help each year, we’re always looking for new people who want to help with the show. It’s so important for the longevity of the show to teach women how to do this so we can pass it on and keep the show going.”