by Gail M. Burns, May 2007

Saturday Night Liv is a charming homespun vaudeville, assembled by the Columbia Arts Team, aka Liv Cummins, Sandy McKnight, and Christina Dellea. After a nomadic existence for the past few years, they have settled for their sixth season at the Spencertown Academy.

Taking as their model the now neglected genre of true variety entertainment, Saturday Night Liv (the last word is NOT misspelled and it is pronounced like Leave) combines comedy, music and novelty acts into one slightly uneven but never dull package. Hosted by Liv Cummins, the troupe’s first show of the season (aptly titled Show #1) featured John Lennon impersonator Tom Raider, physical comedy with Pat Ferri, music from the Pop!ternatives Trio (Cummins, McKnight, and Dellea) and Joel Goldstein, the Singing Dentist, interspersed with comedy sketches written by McKnight and performed by the Really Convincing Players – Cummins, Dellea, John Wallace, Prudence Theriault, Andrew Joffe, and Tony Carrano.

Variety is the spice of life, but, as I learned early when experimenting with the contents of my mother’s spice rack, not all spices are to everyone’s taste. I got a kick out of Raider’s Lennon set, but thought it was about two songs too long. Pop music isn’t really my thing, but Dellea in particular has a fine singing voice (and a CD available for purchase downstairs) and the Pop!ternatives were easy on the ears. I liked Goldstein’s songs, particularly the lovely hymn of praise to the Roe Jan Valley (I hope I am spelling that correctly, but I am sure someone will set me straight if I haven’t) but I found him over-amplified. Can someone explain to me why ANYONE needs to be miked in the intimate confines of the Spencertown Academy?? Acoustic only, please!

The sketches were only mildly amusing in and of themselves, but they were greatly enhanced by Joffe’s inspired lunacy. He is a funny man with a knack for accents. The sketch that got the biggest round of applause was “Dick Cheney in Space” which could have been hilarious and wasn’t, but did contain popular lines insinuating that Cheney would soon be “dethroned” in disgrace. But ABC News Correspondent John Stossel as President? That’s more frightening than funny.

I see some promise in young Tony Carrano. There were moments when he let himself go and was truly surprising and amusing.

The highlight of the show, for me, was Ferri’s physical comedy routine, which involved a hapless Chinese coolie named Foo Li Sho who is sent to the river to wash his master’s “Enchanted Underwear” (a red sequined jock-strap). You have not lived until you have seen a man attempt to defend himself from attack using the afore-mentioned jock strap and a rubber chicken. Single-handedly Ferri presented an entire martial arts movie in miniature, displaying amazing flexibility and physical fitness in the process. He is genuinely funny and talented and I was pleased to have the opportunity to see him perform.

I have described the line-up I saw on Saturday, May 26. In the spirit of variety, there many be changes from performance to performance, for instance the program noted that magician Carl Seiger had performed at the May 24 show, and the Singing Dentist was a surprise guest on the night I attended, so be prepared!

“Saturday Night Liv” is billed as fun for the whole family and boasts a family-friendly 7:30 p.m. curtain and a brief hour and forty-five minute run-time. I would certainly take grandma and the kids to this one. Not only is it good (relatively) clean fun, but the concept of making your own fun, live on stage, is to be applauded. Why sit passively in front of the TV set or movie screen when you can play hide-the-jock-strap with Pat Ferri or sing along with “John Lennon”?

On stage at all times providing musical commentary and accompaniment are McKnight on guitar and bass guitar, Zachary Nayer on piano, and Devid Levow on drums. Lighting designer and stage manager Mary Readon is in the booth.

The first Saturday Night Liv show has two more 7:30 p.m. performances on May 31 and June 2. But if you miss it there are still many more chances to catch these zanies in other iterations. Show #2 will be presented July 26 & 28 and August 2 & 4, and Show #3 hits the boards September 27 & 29 and October 4 & 6. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m.

The Spencertown Academy is located on Rt. 203 in (where else?) Spencertown, NY. Tickets are $20 at the door, $17 in advance. Only $15 for students, veterans, and seniors. Group discounts are also available. For tickets and information, call 518-329-5484 or 518-325-3045.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2007

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