"SHOES AND BAGGAGE" Review - New York Off- Broadway

 “SHOES AND BAGGAGE” is  a One- Woman Musical Meltdown, written and performed by CHERYL STERN- MUSIC by TOM KOCHAN- Directed by JOE BARROS is currentlan Off-Broadway Production playing at THE CELL- 338 W. 23rd St New York City.

Addiction is a tricky thing to pull off as a theme for a One-Person Show, or ANY number of persons show for that matter. Yet that is precisely what Cheryl Stern has managed to accomplish in her remarkable Tour de Force, narrating certain passages of her life. Interspersed with her story are original songs with music furnished admirably by her husband, Tom Kochan and Stern’s own lyrics sung with the experienced authority of the Broadway, Off- B’way, and National Tour veteran that she is. She is also a remarkably talented and astute actress, capable of turning characters, modes, moods, and narrative goals on an FDR dime.

See it now!

So, what, pray tell, is the telling addiction that spines her life story?  Cocaine?  Alcohol?  Tobacco?  Ice Cream? !NO, Readers, it’s SHOPPING!  Shopping online( “Click Chick”). via phone, in person, for the best of clothes, shoes, and bags of the best designs furnished by the most famous names in international stature: Chanel,  Manolo,  Blackglama,  Balenciaga,  you name them, she’s GOT ‘EM  by hook, crook, and maxed out credit cards. What is it that drives her so relentlessly to search for that pair of anything and everything that’s ridiculously expensive, designer original and beyond her normal budget? That is the question that her finely tuned , well directed, sharply funny, surprisingly touching, and never a dull moment in ninety minutes endeavors to answer. 

 

Cheryl Stern

Ms. Stern is an attractive woman of a certain age. Beyond being a seasoned theatrical artist, she’s also a candid stock-taker of her flesh, spirit, upbringing, and precarious existence as a New York actor, writer, coach, whatever- pays- today -survivor. That she’s been partnered with a husband of serious musical chops and apparent  Jobian  patience in Mr. Kochan,  inhabits her narrative, but only peripherally. His music to her lyrics more than ably supplies the necessary bubbles to her sparkling story involving her mother, sister, best friend from Northwestern, and celebrated  co-players in notable Broadway shows that reveal how one’s shopping addiction can well ( or unwell) infect another’s. Among the more touching elements involve her college friend marrying wealth along with a carefree attitude in buying the best, merely to be reminded that such illusions fade quickly when facing terminal illness. Another telling aspect is the flashback to Stern’s childhood when with approaching adolescence, she’s diagnosed with a spinal condition that will cause her “being straight” to be of constant concern.  PETA enthusiasts, such as one of her star players in the revival of “THE WOMEN” will have little sympathy for Stern’s devotion to mink, and particularly a mink of Butterscotch hue that becomes a central theme neatly connected to her friend from college facing serious health issues. The envy of that garment by another celebrated player whom Stern understudies becomes a measure of desire for what’s attainable, unattainable, and questions its meaning.

 

Gotta have those shoes

 And what IS the meaning of all this? What does addiction DO? Why does it haunt some more than others? What endorphins does it promote and how long does the high last?  I’ve a friend , a renowned psychiatrist, who’s been researching these questions  at  a prominent eastern university for years now. It’s still mostly a mystery ,and how the purchasing of apparel and accessories can answer the needs of a lovely and talented person such as Ms. Stern remains so. Yet her strutting, speaking and singing story keeps one engaged with these questions so that the audience feels that they’ve come upon a bargain impossible to resist! This show is scheduled to close at the Cell performance place on 23rd St. this coming week. It well warrants further venues and more than holiday sale duration.

There you have it

 More information about the Cell

 

Photo: Courtesy of the Cell website

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