by Lightsey Darst   August 12, 2010

Lightsey Darst reviews a sultry-silly cabaret by MDT ballet dancer Justin Leaf's alter ego, Mistress Ginger, who puts on a song & dance show that specializes in "the songs that got your grandma into bed."
Justin Leaf as Mistress Ginger in "Bedroom Eyes" -  @ the Jungle Theater Aug 13, 14
Justin Leaf as Mistress Ginger in "Bedroom Eyes" - @ the Jungle Theater Aug 13, 14
Photo courtesy of the Fringe Festival

JUSTIN LEAF, A LOCAL BALLET DANCER (formerly with James Sewell, now with Minnesota Dance Theatre), moonlights as Mistress Ginger, doing his Bedroom Eyes cabaret, singing "the songs that got your grandma into bed." He's been doing this around town for a few years; now he's taking Mistress Ginger to the Fringe.

Leaf makes a lovely queen: he's beautiful, with soulful eyes, a whippet-thin frame, and legs from here to Bangkok. He's got the attitude: world-weary, occasionally raunchy ("we were doing what lovers do -- the nasty"), yet still star-struck and generous at heart. He's got the "snazzle-frazzle" -- Lucite stripper heels, cotton candy pink wig, feathers, etc. -- though I wish he had more. His dancing goes without saying; those long lines are ideal for Fosse-esque attitudes. And then he's got his flexible and useful (if not particularly distinctive) voice. Leaf's also assisted by Joey Clark, in the form of a dancing panda who (surprise!) is not a panda at all, but a man who secretly loves Ginger. Clark is your typical triple threat: sings (mostly harmoniously, at times ear-splittingly), acts (sincerely), dances (with pep).

Because I am me, I wish this show went further in the cartoony direction it sometimes embraces. My favorite moment is the dancing panda's silly "Three Little Fishies" number, complete with white gloves, bouncing retro steps, and a goofy shark (Leaf, all hunched over in a gray cloth). The love story that takes over the show -- eh... we can see that coming for miles, whereas this little dance is totally surprising, and delightful.

And if I could have one more wish, I'd wish for a genuine cabaret setting -- not just for this show, but for a host of other performers (from burlesquers to poets) who need both the interaction and the hard-knock training that setting provides. Leaf has all the right ingredients, but this show could use a little kick in the derriere.

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Related performance details:

Bedroom Eyes, presented by Junkyard Theater, is on stage at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. Remaining shows: August 13 (7 pm), 14 (8:30 pm)

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Bonus Mistress Ginger video:

Check back regularly throughout the Fringe Festival for more short reviews on mnartists.org, sent in from our intrepid performance critics

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About the author: Originally from Tallahassee, Lightsey Darst is a poet, dance writer, and adjunct instructor at various Twin Cities colleges. Her manuscript Find the Girl has just been published by Coffee House; she has also been awarded a 2007 NEA Fellowship. She hosts the writing salon, "The Works."