By Byrne Harrison
Tawny Heatherton is many things - one hit disco wonder (in Europe), former "Hee Haw" Honey, niece of Joey Heatherton, incurable optimist, and Esperanto enthusiast. She's also the brainchild of Obie-award winning actor and playwright David Drake, who portrays Tawny in "My Tawny Valentine" at the Laurie Beechman Theatre.
"My Tawny Valentine" heralds Tawny's return to show business, and what a return it is. Full of stream of consciousness stories about her childhood (including why she was known as the Pyro Girl of Long Island), her years working the touring "Hee Haw" circuit, meeting and losing the love of her life, her disco hit, and anything else that seems to pop into her mind, "My Tawny Valentine" is a peek into the life and mind of a D-list (or maybe even lower) showbiz survivor. Tawny is very much in the moment, and her show will take the audience places they certainly don't expect to go in a typical cabaret show.
Drake is phenomenal as the dizty and lovable Heatherton. While Tawny is a bit of a mess, Drake gives her a certain dignity; you will laugh at her, but you will sympathize, too. She may have a checkered past, but she still manages to shine in her own special way. While she certainly surprises the audience with her musical stylings (Did you ever wonder what "My Funny Valentine" would sound like in Esperanto? Neither did I, but you'll be glad you heard it.), the best moments of the show involve Tawny's rambling stories about her life. Her journey from her childhood days on Long Island to her current "stardom" are wonderful, touching, crazy, and above all hilarious.
Ably directed by Robert La Fosse and featuring some marvelous arrangements by musical director and accompanist Lance Cruce (he also gets to have some fun moments with Tawny as they discuss how they met), "My Tawny Valentine" is a fun treat.
It's also worth mentioning that Tawny's European disco hit is not only used as a jumping off point for some of her stories, the music video from the song, "Run Crazy Man," is shown during one of Tawny's costume changes. Featuring Aaron Tone and J. Stephen Brantley as a couple of Tawny's European muscle boys, and directed by Ned Stresen-Reuter, the video is spot on. For those of us old enough to remember the early days of MTV, this will be a somewhat embarrasing reminder of the videos we used to love.
"My Tawny Valentine"
Written and performed by David Drake
Feb. 17 - March 2 at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
West Bank Cafe at 407 West 42nd Street
Tickets are $20 plus a $15 food/drink minimum. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.spincyclenyc.com/.