Standing in a tattered dress, holding a rag doll, and staring off into a bleak future with Lillian Gish–like silence, Poor Baby Bree seems to have been born in sepia tone. The cabaret artist, also known as Bree Benton (and the stepdaughter of Richard Belzer), sings Tin Pan Alley ditties while channeling Great Depression–era stage and screen starlets. Today, she lends her nostalgia act to a walking tour of the Lower East Side, led by historian David Freeland. The walk takes visitors to the Bowery Mission, Di Palo’s Fine Foods, Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, and the Merchant’s House Museum, and at each stop Bree embellishes the historical tidbits with some vaudeville tunes: “The Bowery,” “Yiddle, on Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime,” and more. Afterward, should the Grapes of Wrath treatment get you down, you can come back to the present-day Bowery at, oh, John Varvatos, Whole Foods, DBGB, etc.
Sun., Aug. 28, noon, 2011
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 17, 2011