Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Do You Want a Cookie?
Bearded Ladies Cabaret /2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Rebecca's review of Kill Move Paradise

Tareke Ortiz
Photo by Plate 3 Photography
The Bearded Ladies Cabaret comes to the 2018 Fringe Festival with a fully immersive experience years in the making. A three-story concrete warehouse in the up and coming Spring Arts district (north of Chinatown) is transformed into an epic party space and a series of intimate concert venues. The line-up of beloved locals is joined by artists hailing from as far as Mexico City and Berlin. Each evening's ample array of entertainment includes cabaret classics, interesting finds, and some noteworthy new work. And what is the result? I am thrilled to report that Do You Want a Cookie? is quite simply the best party you have never been invited to.

The night begins with some delicious song and thoughtful banter from Bearded Ladies' artistic director and our effortlessly endearing host John Jarboe. Originally conceived as a sweeping "history of cabaret," Jarboe wisely eschews such ambitious pronouncements for the evening and instead asks the audience to consider each of the performances that follow as an examination of "what we have lost." To maintain the intimacy and unique atmosphere of each act the audience is then divided into three groups and every attendee only sees approximately one third of the entertainment on offer. My journey started off on a high note with the magnetic Dito van Reigersberg, performing as himself and tracing the origin of his now famous stage name, Martha Graham Cracker. Tareke Ortiz's sonorous voice is an aural extravaganza, and his tribute to his mother exceptional. The entire setup is seriously impressive, but the magic of Oona Curley's lighting design is especially evident during Ortiz's performance.

The second portion of the evening is choose-your-own-adventure. Adrienne Truscott and her voracious vagina (this thing has teeth!) perform a zany comedy routine. Daniel Park actively engages his group with a surreal monologue that feels genuinely, achingly desperate. It's hilarious stand-up and outstanding performance art, but I might have preferred a chance to see some of the singers I missed during part one.

A high energy musical march into the street would have been a strong end to the night's festivities, but like an unexpected layer of Milanos, there were a few extra treats in store. Someone slipped me a treasure map leading to the bewitching tones of Cookie Diorio. I tucked into the "late night snack" to hear Mary Tuomanen charm the room with "Il M'a Vue Nue" and "Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler." All of which adds up to a nearly four-hour binge of glittering and remarkably unpretentious cabaret bliss. More than just a tasty treat, The Bearded Ladies' luscious Do You Want A Cookie? is definitive proof that cabaret is alive and well and thriving in Philly.

Do You Want a Cookie?, through September 16, 2018, at 448 N. 10th Street, Philadelphia PA. For more information visit

Adrienne Truscott (NYC), Bridge Markland (Berlin), Cherdonna Shinatra (Seattle), Cookie Diorio (Philly), Gosia Kasprzycka (Paris/Poland), Daniel Park (Philly), Jess Conda (Philly), Dito van Reigersberg (Philly), Dieter Rita Scholl (Berlin), Mary Tuomanen (Philly), John Jarboe (Philly), Messapotamia LeFae (Philly), Machine Dazzle (NYC) and Tareke Ortiz (Mexico City)

Musicians Jimmy Coleman, Dorie Byrne, Daniel de Jesus, Andrew Nelson, Spiff Weigard

Director and Co-Conceiver* John Jarboe, Dramaturg and Co-Conceiver* Sally Ollove, Assistant Director Brett Robinson, Music Supervisor* Heath Allen, Music Director Amanda Morton, Associate Group Choreographer Jody Kuehner, Production Stage Manager Nic Labadie-Bartz, Assistant Stage Manager Maya Neville, Installation and Costume Design* Rebecca Kanach, Installation and Costume Design Machine Dazzle, Lighting Design Oona Curley, Sound Design Liz Atkinson, Projection Design Christopher Ash, Associate Installation Design Sara Outing, Assistant Lighting Design Heather Edney

General Manager* Cynthia Janzen, Production Manager* Calvin Anderson, Company Manager Dan O'Neil, Assistant Production Manager Sara Marinich, Technical Direction Flannel and Hammer, Lauren Tracy, Joe Daniels, Venue Management & Master Electrician Jacks Katz, Lighting Operator John Allerheiligen, Audio Mixers Waylon Ferrell, Taylor Jedlinski, Projection Operator Michael Long

*Member of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret staff and/or company