REAL LIVE GIRL created and performed by Damien Atkins, directed by David Oiye. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to December 23, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $18-$25, Tuesday and Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNN
to invert the song from my fair Lady, Why can't a man be more like a woman? The switch isn't a problem for Damien Atkins, who lets all his internal female voices out of the closet in Real Live Girl, a marvellous cabaret show packed with humour and great songs.Here's a performer who engages viewers as soon as he appears onstage, flashing a twinkly smile that signals equal parts shyness and wickedness. As Atkins takes us through his childhood and adolescence, wondering why he plays with both Hot Wheels and Barbie campers and why guidance counsellors throw up their hands in despair at his crying, the ingratiating artist tells his story with expert comic timing.
But funny as Atkins's sketches are -- and he's a wonderful mimic, his grab bag of "dame" lines from Hollywood films delivered spot-on -- it's his song stylings, with accompaniment by John Hughes, that are exceptional. Singing 17 numbers mostly written for women, ranging from the familiar I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair to rarities like the heartbreaking Diary Of A Homecoming Queen, he offers individual takes on the songs' lyrics and emotions.
And there's not a camp-for-camp's-sake rendition in the bunch. Working with director David Oiye, Atkins makes surprising transitions from monologue to song, like the awkward near-puberty adolescent dreaming about pussy who then breaks into I Enjoy Being A Girl, or the vengeful woman who sabotages her ex's apartment and bar act before recalling I Had Myself A True Love. Splendid entertainment.