Dead From New York: It’s Pepper & Sam!

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  • SHOW SUMMARY

    Billed as the ghosts with the most! The ghouls with the goods! The Apparitions from Prohibition — Pepper & Sam are back from the grave with a 90 minute rock n’ roll-vaudeville review with a whole new outlook on life … and death.

    Virtuosic, rock n’ roll-vaudevillians Pepper Mills & Play It Again Sam were touted in cities from Wichita to Schenectady before their tragic demise in a blazing theater fire. Stuck playing the purgatory circuit for over 80 years, these two lost souls have toured Heaven and tempted Hell, and now they’re back from the grave with brand new bodies and decades of new material.  Pepper & Sam will resuscitate classics by The Beatles,Cab Calloway, Elton John and Queen and breath new life into songs by Tupac Shakur, Green Day, No Doubt and much, much more!

  • Justin Levine (Play-it-again Sam) works as a writer, composer, actor and musician in New York City and around the country. This past winter, he was Musical Director and performer in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson both at the Public Theater and the Jacobs Theater on Broadway. Most recently he served as associate music director for Here Lies Love, a new musical by David Byrne. His own musical Bonfire Night (book, music &lyrics) received a Martel Workshop at New York Stage and Film last summer, directed by Alex Timbers. Justin has been the co-creator of “Pepper and Sam” with collaborator Salty Brine for the past five years. Their most recent show, Death by Vaudeville has been performed all over the city, including the Summer in the Square mainstage at Union Square Park. He received a commission from Naked Angels for a gospel/soul musical about the life of Madam C.J. Walker with book writer Kara Lee Corthron. When not working on theater, he tours with the Clinton Curtis Band, for which he plays keys, guitar, mandolin, accordion, banjo, among other things.

    Salty Brine (Pepper Mills) is a New York City based writer and performer. He has been creating and performing Pepper and Sam shows with the astoundingly talented Mr. Justin Levine since 2005. NY Credits: Thanksgiving! A! Pagaent! (Writers David McGee/Stephanie Johnstone), The Infernal Mcahine (CSV w/ Te Ilum), Straight Talk (Dixon Place), Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge (HERE Arts Center), Oh The Horror! (Naked Angels), Extra Virgin (Under St. Marks), Othello (Dreamscape). Salty cut his teeth hosting the weekly rock ‘n roll, gender-bending karaoke show at legendary Queens dive bar The Albatross. Faculty member, Playwrights Horizons Theater School, NYU.

  • Pepper & Sam

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    October 3, 2011

    Contact: Gigi Cantin 619.933.9915 gcantin@diversionary.org
    John Alexander 619.220.6830 jalexander@diversionary.org

    Hot New York vaudevillians Pepper & Sam

    launch Diversionary Cabaret in October 2011

    San Diego, CA – Dead from New York: It’s Pepper & Sam! Reanimated brother and sister act, Pepper & Sam are coming to San Diego to launch Diversionary Theatre’s new Cabaret Series on Friday October 21, 2011.

    Billed as the ghosts with the most! The ghouls with the goods! The Apparitions from Prohibition — Pepper & Sam are back from the grave with a 90 minute rock n’ roll-vaudeville review with a whole new outlook on life … and death.

    Virtuosic, rock n’ roll-vaudevillians Pepper Mills & Play It Again Sam were touted in cities from Wichita to Schenectady before their tragic demise in a blazing theater fire. Stuck playing the purgatory circuit for over 80 years, these two lost souls have toured Heaven and tempted Hell, and now they’re back from the grave with brand new bodies and decades of new material.  Pepper & Sam will resuscitate classics by The Beatles,Cab Calloway, Elton John and Queen and breath new life into songs by Tupac Shakur, Green Day, No Doubt and much, much more!

    Diversionary Executive Director John Alexander is “thrilled to launch our new cabaret series with the west coast premiere of Pepper & Sam, one of downtown NYC’s hottest acts. Celebrating the cabaret form, we are proud to begin the integration of additional music, comedy, dance and burlesque programming into our seasons, providing patrons with cutting edge performances from San Diego and beyond.”

    Pepper and Sam are the creation of two New York based performer/authors Salty Brine and Justin Levine’s mutual interest in finding ways for music and theater to collide on stage. Their work explores matters of life, death, existence, time, gender, sexuality and history, all while breaking down preconceived notions of theater, cabaret, the drag show and drag itself.

    Justin Levine (Play-it-again Sam) works as a writer, composer, actor and musician in New York City and around the country. This past winter, he was Musical Director and performer in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson both at the Public Theater and on Broadway. Justin is the co-creator of “Pepper and Sam” with collaborator Salty Brine. Their most recent show, Death by Vaudeville has been performed all over the city, including the Summer in the Square mainstage at Union Square Park.

    Salty Brine (Pepper Mills) is a New York City based writer and performer. He has been creating and performing Pepper and Sam shows with the astoundingly talented Mr. Justin Levine since 2005. Salty cut his teeth hosting the weekly rock ‘n roll, gender-bending karaoke show at legendary Queens dive bar “The Albatross” and is a faculty member with Playwrights Horizons Theater School, NYU.

    About Diversionary

    Diversionary Theatre develops new works and produces plays and musicals that explore the issues, characters and stories of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in all its complexity and diversity. Founded in 1986 to bring to light important social issues that impact the quality of life of LGBT people, the company has grown into professional theatre company producing a season of main stage plays and musicals as well as nurturing LGBT artists in the development of new works of theatre through new play commissions, readings and workshops.  We regularly collaborate with other theatre and arts groups to present special events and co-productions of main stage plays, thus involving a wider arts community in our mission.

    Performances run from October 21 through October 30, 2011 at Diversionary Theatre – 4545 Park Blvd. San Diego CA 92116.
    General Admission $20.00

    VIP $29.00 (including complimentary cocktail and reserved seating)

    All performances 8:00pm except for the Sunday October 30 performance at 2:00pm

  • Pepper and Sam sing the opening number from the act that took them to the top of Chicago’s burlesque circuit. From DEATH BY VAUDEVILLE. Live at The Parkside Lounge. Created and performed by Salty Brine and Justin Levine.

  • Funny Dead from New York: When is a cabaret not a cabaret?

    The inaugural Diversionary Cabaret is a juggernaut. It has to be.

    Diversionary Theatre’s Dead From New York: It’s Pepper & Sam! (subtitled The Apparitions From Prohibition) is the perfect entertainment for Halloween. The performance space is replete with bar, bartender, snacks and an onstage cabaret table. You’re free to consume goodies in your seat and replenish them in the middle of the show, but you must not climb onto the stage no matter how enamored you become of these ghoulish performers.

    Chanteuse Pepper (Salty Brine)—I use the word chanteuse loosely—and piano man Sam (Justin Levine) are unlike anything heretofore experienced.

    Performers Pepper Mills and Play-It-Again-Sam are dead, and there’s no telling when they must return to purgatory, where they’ve been stuck for 60 years, ever since getting trapped in a Prohibition-era fire while performing vaudeville at the New Century Music Hall. It figures they want out—in purgatory, all there is to do is watch videotape recordings.

    One tends to think of cabaret as chat-a-little, sing-a-little. But as stated, this is a juggernaut, a seamless 90-minute arc that weaves underscored patter with continuous performance of songs, solo turns and close-harmony duets, ranging from music hall to The Beatles (Levine is a brilliant pianist who’s been playing since he was a child).

    In the mash-up, I recognized bits of “I’m Just a Gigolo,” “Magic Woman,” “That Old Black Magic,” “I Ain’t Got No Body,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Wunderbar,” “Istanbul/Constantinople” and “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen,” the latter two employed in an outrageously funny sketch about a gig in Sarajevo and the shot that set off World War II.

    When the lights first come up, one’s eyes are drawn to the tall, slim Pepper. She is clad in a fabulous off-kilter coat (it later comes off) trimmed with faux fur the color of persimmons and wearing a complementary, slightly darker wig. A cross between Marlene Dietrich and Mae West, she has huge eyelashes and the most garish, glittery mouth imaginable. All this and clarion singing in the baritone range and long legs in stiletto-heeled boots. And if you think you’ve seen falsies, clearly you have not.

    Costumes are impressive overall—glittery for Pepper and character-filled for Sam, who wears an array of adorable hats and experiences one excruciatingly funny costume change while seated at the piano.

    The lovable Sam is more understated, unsmiling though every bit as bizarre as Pepper in his own quiet way. Almost Chaplinesque, he provides ballast, sweet vocal sounds in the tenor range and even “instrumentals.” Aside from that, he is a place to rest and a perfect foil for Pepper. That ain’t easy—and the chemistry and balance are just right.

    Watch these boys. They’re going places.

    This review is based on the performance of Oct. 24. Dead from New York: It’s Pepper and Sam! runs through Oct. 30 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in University Heights. $20. 619-220-0097, diversionary.org

    –Charlene Baldridge

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