The women who play Sophie drop one-liners like “England and the USA are two cultures separated by language”; tell anecdotes that were raunchy then, almost quaint now; and sing numbers ranging from plaintive to ones Tucker said “have to do with sex but not with vice.” The two Sophies are onstage together much of the time, playing her at different ages. (A third Sophie, Susan Flynn, could not
play opening week because of an injury; she will be replaced by Shaelynn Parker for a Florida tour, and the few songs that were temporarily dropped will be restored.)
Allison Briner as the mature Sophie and Lauren Mufson as her younger self are strong, pleasing warblers, with Mufson more a belter. Domenick Allen, a musical virtuoso, plays some of the men in Tucker’s life, including her pianist of 45
years, Ted Shapiro, entertainers Ted Lewis, Harry Lauder and Ukelele Ike, and songwriters Jack Yellen and Irving Berlin.
The sprinkling of Yiddishisms — an “oy vay” here and an “I need someone to cover my toches when I screw up” there — hint at the flavor but not the tam of Tucker’s (nee Kalish) Russian-Jewish upbringing. Her love of showbiz was
fostered by contact with Yiddish theater stars who visited her mother’s Hartford, Conn., restaurant.
In addition to songs about red-hot mamas, there are Berlin’s ragtime “Grizzly Bear,” “Alabamy Bound,” “I Know that My Baby Is Cheatin’ on Me (But I’m Cheatin’ Too),” “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” and “Pennies From Heaven.” Tucker often sang with a growl, produced by “steel band” vocal chords. Briner and Mufson’s styles are warm and appealing, but here “Some of These Days” is
more concert-hall than burlesque, and “My Yiddishe Momma” more sentiment than Second Avenue.
The set is a backstage dressing area with a rehearsal piano, a garment rack full of glittery gowns, boas draped over dressing screens, and trunks. The Sophies are glamorously dressed and wigged as platinum blondes like Tucker, but Mufson’s wig would look better on Martha Washington. Costume designer Gail Cooper-Hecht, possibly overwhelmed by one Brit critic’s description of Tucker as “a big, fat, blond genius,” has constructed a bust on poor Mufson’s thin frame that looks like what the yentas of yore would have called a “front porch.” Pianist Darren Cohen does a fine job with a five-piece pit orchestra.
Show is booked through March for two-night stands in Fort Lauderdale, North Miami Beach, Palm Beach and Boca Raton. Producers hope for a New York visit in the fall.