Pound for pound, there is no more talented cast on television today than the "Mad Men" players. We already knew that, of course, but anyone who might've demanded more evidence only needed to get to the Hollywood Theater at the MGM Grand on Tuesday night for the Las Vegas edition of the "Mad Men Live Revue."
As ancillary products go, this is as good as it gets -- no T-shirt or lunch box or screensaver could come close. I only hope that a recording of one of these revue perfs makes its way onto a DVD set someday. They are entirely too much fun to be enjoyed only by a few hundred people at a time.
I was lucky enough to attend the first "Mad Men" revue in October at the El Rey Theater down the street from Variety's office (for a refresher on that show, click here). As cool as that show was, Tuesday's perf (official title: "A Night on the Town with 'Mad Men' ") had that extra ring-a-ding-ding of being staged in a Vegas showroom, ground zero of the Rat Pack. The "Mad Men" revue is clearly the spiritual successor of Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey. And since they were kind enough to let me crash the cast afterparty at the MGM Grand's Tabu restaurant (thank you, Robin Veith), I can testify that they live it up off-stage in an old-school, keep 'em coming manner as well. It was the latest night (earliest morning) I've had in a while (hence the lateness of this posting).
Rich Sommer (Harry Crane), who was not at the El Rey, added a bit of comic relief this time around as he did a running shtick with emcee Joel Murray (Freddy Rumsen) about wanting to help out with the show. First Murray sends him off to go get him a glass of grapefruit juice and some Advil at Bally's. At one point Sommer returned to the stage in a sheer nightie -- with a pair of briefs underneath -- and at another point he was tasked with finding Freddy a "hot girl" to come on stage to help him out with a magic trick. (More on that below.)
"You just gotta be careful what you agree to at a Golden Globes party," Murray observed.
David Carbonara, "Mad Men's" musical director who had the initial inspiration to assemble a revue-style performance of period tunes from the "Mad Men" era, beamed as he led a 13-piece band, the "Chivas 13." "Mad Men" staffer Robin Veith wrote the show, and Michael Uppendahl directed.
Murray kicked things off with a lushy rendition of "Scotch and Soda," with the appropriate prop in hand. He was followed by Mark Moses, who belted "Ain't Love a Kick." Like at the El Rey, thrush Inara George was brought in as a ringer to do "We'll take Manhattan." Michael "Paul Kinsey" Gladis came out with an acoustic guitar in hand for an version of "Don't Think Twice, it's Alright." Crista "Lois Sadler" Flanagan played her ditsy character (the switchboard operator who aspires to be a secretary) to the hilt with "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee." Big part of the show's charm is how well-tailored the tunes are to each thesp's character in the show.
Julie McNiven (Hildy who plays Pete Campbell's meek but amorous secretary) was a new addition since the El Rey. She delivered a fine rendition fo "I Can Dream, Can't I?"
Robert Morse (Bert Cooper) did his "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" numbers, "Brotherhood of Man" and "I Believe in You." Alison Brie channeled her inner Trudy Campbell to deliver "Daddy" ("I want a brand new car, champagne, caviar"), with a mink boa for effect.
Patrick Fischler (Jimmy Barrett) got the same spot as last time, delivering the boilerplate charity info -- the show was done as a benefit for the NATPE Educational Foundation. And just like last time, exotic dancer Rima Yazbeck (yes the same one who was in that season two episode where the guys and Peggy hit the strip club) came out to liven things up with a fan dance.
Jimmy Barrett's not-so-better-half followed, Melinda McGraw (Bobbie Barrett), who did her jazzy "Twisted" and then stuck around for something that she did not do at the El Rey, a sassy duet with Joel Murray on Louis Armstrong's "Who Walks In When I Walk Out?" Great stuff.
Dar Williams, another sweet-voiced ringer, got her own solo number this time, Ella Fitzgerald's "Always True to You" ("I'm always true to you, darling, in my fashion").
After this, Rich Sommer pops up in the audience and is enlisted to help Joel Murray find his girl, who is of course, the shapely Christina Hendricks, who strutted her stuff in a low-cut, form-fitting colorful print cocktail dress. She walked on stage to wild applause -- everybody loves Joan -- and proceeded to fish a piece of paper out of Murray's pocket. Yes, that was the whole trick - a little risque but sweet too. Hendricks did a little curtsy and wave and left without saying a word.
Next up was another new addition, Audrey Wasilewski, who plays Peggy's older sister Anita, who noted the preponderance of executives in the room and dedicated the Irving Berlin tune "After You Get What You Want (You Don't Want It at All") to them. (Marilyn Monroe did it in 1954's "There's No Business Like Show Business.")
Maggie Siff (Rachel Menken) was a knockout again with her sultry-moody take on "Black Coffee." (She was wearing the same distinctive orange dress as at the El Rey.)
And then, Bryan Batt -- a veteran of "La Cage Aux Folles" and other tuners -- came out and killed with the samba-flavored "Sway." His number was enhanced with the visual aid of four dancers in pink strapless dresses that made them look like upside-down tulips. And like at the El Rey, one of those dancers was Donielle Artese, aka Paul Kinsey's squeeze Sheila White.
For the show stopper, they turned again to Father Gill. Colin Hanks, Dar Williams and Michael Gladis came out to rock the house with acoustic guitars and a good-old fashioned spiritual, "Early in the Morning." As the aud clapped along ("gonna find a way"), the rest of the revue came out and took a well-deserved bow.