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May 26, 2018:

The Tony Martini Variety Hour reviewed by Rob Stevens

Do you miss viewing such 1960s TV shows as The Dean Martin Show with a seemingly intoxicated host and a bevy of leggy showgirls? Or more so, do you miss The Ed Sullivan Show with jugglers, puppets, ventriloquists, comics and singers? Then you might be interested in checking out live and in person The Tony Martini Show at Three Clubs down Vine Street from the old Hollywood Palace TV show’s taping site. Talented with a capital T (the rest lower case), Tony Martini (Mark Fite) is the lounge lizard host introducing the acts and belittling his long-suffering wife and performing partner Bananas Foster (Renee Albert). Albert has the perfect deadpan response to almost everything uttered by Martini and proves adept at playing a mean accordion and dressing with beaucoup banana accessories. Her X-rated alphabet song is a hoot. There are some wonderful and loony specialty acts on display. Michael Rayner is an expert juggler of tennis racquets and Burger King burgers (on a spinning umbrella). You may also win some money if Rayner can’t balance your shoe on his nose for a count of seven. Also counting to great effect in his act is knife thrower Jack Dagger who nearly neuters a hapless male volunteer from the audience. I don’t recall ever seeing a can-can dancer on stage outside of Cole Porter’s musical, but Olive Oztentacious proves she can kick, spin on one leg, fall into a split, give an apache yell and show her panties and tassels with the best of them. Mary Frances Conover displays her operatic vocal prowess in what is barely a throw away bit while April Showers dispenses candy and shows her dancing skills. Karl Herlinger seems to be a very talented ventriloquist but really isn’t given much of a chance to do his act. The piece-de-resistance is the performance of The Finaler Kiss by Les Petits Guignolers, based on a play by Le Theatre du Grand Guignol. There will be blood! Debbie McMahon works the puppets aided by assistant Tina Van Berkelaer and sound effects wizard Stephen Simon. It’s a long evening, about 45 minutes beyond the titular hour. Unfortunately most of it is taken up with Martini’s pandering for ever-decreasing laughs and a dead-in-the-water subplot involving his last ditch effort to retain his agent of 23 years. The book by Steven Espinosa and Fite is the show’s weakest element and should be cut back dramatically. Just let the specialty acts, and they are special, perform. R.A. White directed and Martin Olson gave great accompaniment on piano.

Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge, 1123 N. Vine St. in Hollywood. June 16 & 18 &amp as well as every 4th Thursday through November. www.tonymartinihour.com

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