Events may have caught up with “Poor Baby Bree.”
While the good times were still rolling, Bree Benton’s vaudeville act, with songs from the early 1900s to 1920s, seemed an odd but charming footnote in the city’s phalanx of nightclub performers. But now that times are as hard as the Panic of 1907, a waif in a rumpled dress singing sadly to her doll with authentic turn-of-the-century tunes could be some kind of metaphor for the humbling moment we find ourselves in.
Last summer, The Believer‘s Ange Mlinko described Poor Baby Bree’s strange appeal when she called it the “pleasant sensation of false déjà vu.”
Writes Mlinko: “Lots of women have style; Bree Benton has an aesthetic. Born and raised in L.A. with a ’70s starlet for a mother, she might have parlayed her background, and her beauty, into a conventional acting career. Instead, she gravitated to obscure vaudeville, music hall, and parlor songs, the stuff of sheet-music aficionados.”
(That starlet mom, by the way, is Harlee McBride, who happens to be married to Richard Belzer, who, we should point out in the interests of full disclosure, is funnier than shit.)
With nearly everyone you know either out of work or working scared, this might be the kind of diversion we all could use. There’s no end to nostalgia about what we all grew up with. But nostalgia for someone else’s past? How meta.
Bree brings her act to the cabaret spot Don’t Tell Mama (343 W. 46th Street) this Wednesday at 8:30.