Review by Chris Cassone
Starring Kelsey Harper & Her Finger Puppets - October 26, 2023
Finger puppets? Really?
Yes, really. Very much so, really!
Kelsey Harper brought her forty finger puppets, her clever sense of timing, her exceptional voice, oh, and her total insanity, into the Jaxx Theater for what turned out to be a warm, funny, and extremely unusual evening of entertainment. But what was it I witnessed?
You could call it a musical because clearly there were songs sung. It wasn't a night of improv, yet she was quick on her feet with the "antics" of her supporting cast, several of whom tried desperately to steal the show from her. She wouldn't have any of it. And it wasn't stand-up comedy, but the audience laughed at every move she made.
No, this piece of performance art checked all of the boxes above, and she gave us much
more. Those little furry puppets are that good. This all came about during a recent Hollywood Fringe Festival event where one of Jaxx founders, Jeremey Lucas, happened onto Kelsey as she performed her "musical with the plot stripped." She did her finger puppet riffing, and they were sold, bringing her to the Jaxx on a quarterly residency (see her again in January.)
With eight songs in the repertoire, five of which are original by Eddie Perfect, the night flew by. Most were elaborate arrangements with choreography to match. But "Dead Mom" was a chart-topper. The title makes it sound like a grunge band from the Nineties but trust me, it was a Broadway showstopper. Along with the finale, "Barbara 2.0," Kelsey showed her range and chops, even while the puppets were whispering in her ear.
Now for the truly unusual. She has a unique tiger by the tail with a gimmick of rolling clever PowerPoint on the screen along with her singing. With a large collection of photos and videos from her childhood and high school drama club (circling Kelsey in each image,) she utilized much of it with a silent narrator on the screen commenting on the boyfriend who did this or the archenemy who did that. She was able to have the last laugh on many of them. And, get this, we all laughed as well! And we didn't even know them. But we knew her, because in a very short time, Kelsey revealed much of herself to us and isn't that what it's all about? Show us how we are similar, and then we can laugh and cry with you.
We did laugh and cry when Little Bear Puppet finally returned to her rightful place on the stage. This was part of a mass suspension of disbelief. First, a little laugh from this guy over here, then chuckles from another couple over there. It was infectious. And pretty soon the entire audience ended up laughing and crying. Besides, she was trying so hard to make it work, why fight it?
Before I implore the use of a specific word, let's see the definitions.
Zany: strange, surprising, or uncontrolled in a humorous way; amusingly unconventional
I feel better using the word, zany, now, because zany Kelsey surprised us in a strange way. The audience, from the start, had fits of uncontrolled humor and anybody who would think to utilize finger puppets for their off-Broadway debut has to go in the column of amusingly unconventional.
Her true talent was for convincing the audience to follow her. She had us repeating the Beetlejuice-Beetlejuice-Beetlejuice chant over and over and louder and louder. When she replaced the ghost's name with her own, we got even louder.
Well done, Kelsey Harper. You have something special here. We'll see you next quarter.