Story: She’s been around since vaudeville, something we learn as we watch a reel of footage of Deenie Nast while waiting for the celebrated performer to take the stage. She’s been a star of Broadway, Hollywood and the touring circuit, with an Oscar, an Emmy and two Tony Awards to prove it. Heck, she was even nominated for a Kevin Kline Award six different times.
Deenie has performed around the world on numerous occasions, taking her one-woman act to faraway places with strange-sounding names, and along the way she was married seven times. These days, while she’s not as ambulatory as in yesteryear, she still can strut her stuff for adoring audiences with the aid and invaluable assistance of her personal nurse, Minnie.
When the newsreel concluded on opening night and it was apparent that Minnie was a no-show, St Lou Fringe executive director Matthew Kerns inquired whether a volunteer from the audience could fill in for Minnie and keep an eye on Deenie. An agreeable young woman named Paige cheerfully assumed that responsibility.
With her meds and other health aids close by, Deenie was able to serenade her audience with her favorite tunes, dwelling on the subjects of love, loneliness, relationships and the “true connections” she has made with fans for decades worldwide.
Highlights: Audrey Crabtree’s one-woman show is a strange but somehow charming look into the somewhat defiant, frequently dazzling world of her fictional and unpredictable alter ego, Deenie Nast.
Other Info: Presented in conjunction with St Lou Fringe, Crabtree’s impersonation of a deteriorating diva is a theatrical trip. Wholly inhabiting Deenie throughout the one-hour performance, Crabtree forays into the audience, engaging the patrons in dialogue that welcomes challenges to her fractured character while also generously sharing the spotlight with some newfound friend.
Crabtree’s bio in the program notes that she has “advanced training in clown, bouffon and physical comedy,” something that can be verified watching her in action as the sometimes feeble, always defiant Deenie.
She sings in a deliberately cracked voice that is both amusing and sad in its depiction of a ‘star’ who won’t give up the limelight, attempting to warble Laura Nyro’s One or the theme from Friends in bizarre fashion. It is to be hoped that songwriter Carole King will forgive Deenie for the latter's strained version of You’ve Got a Friend.
Charlie Brown serves as musical accompanist and all-around good sport at the piano, smiling genially while Deenie rambles on in borderline incoherence about some historic slight or a long-lost love. Crabtree’s way with physical humor is evident when she ‘stumbles’ on occasion or as she acrobatically pulls herself back up from a prone position with the assistance of Paige and a gentleman from a front-row table.
Deenie Nast Is Back! is part cabaret, part comedy and all accomplished effort by Audrey Crabtree in the title role of a woman who is way past her performance expiration date but refuses to give up the spotlight she’s danced in since vaudeville. She’d love to see you in the audience, welcoming her to The Lou.
Play: Deenie Nast Is Back!
Company: Ten Directions
Venue: The Emerald Room at The Monacle, 4510 Manchester Avenue
Dates: February 8, 15, 22, March 1
Tickets: $10-$15; contact eventbrite.com/e/deenie-nast-is-back-tickets-53827429290
Photos courtesy of Bram Muller, Darien DeCosta