Festival Theatre, Wed Jun 19
As I sat there and watched the five minute montage of the life of actor, writer, director and keynote speaker Kathy Najimy, followed by her applause-arousing entrance to the Festival Theatre stage for her debut appearance at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, I considered jotting down a thing or two on my notepad – but I didn’t. When she introduced her musical director Brian J Nash (who has a career all of his own back in the United States) and apologised that she wasn’t going to sing like they do in typical cabaret shows, before giving some very cool examples of her “not” singing, I meant to take notes about the movies and TV shows she had been in – like Sister Act, Rat Race and Veronica’s Closet – but I put no pencil to paper.
I watched Najimy. I loved the animation in her face as she recalled her stories of her childhood obsession with Bette Midler, the way her bedroom wall was plastered with Ms M’s face and how she stole moments of opportunity to meet her idol by outrunning the backstage security guards and then delivering a singing telegram dressed as a white rabbit. She took us to that moment many years later when her dream had come true and she landed the role of playing Midler’s sister in Hocus Pocus and became good friends. I told myself that I needed to make a note how effortlessly she was swinging those poi as a visual addition to her tale – but I never got around to it.
Listening to her proud stories of growing up in a Lebanese family, eventually returning to Beirut with her teenage daughter Samia and very Caucasian husband Dan, I laughed along with the rest of the audience as she described aunts and uncles, friends and family, hilarious situations and amusing recollections, I told myself to scrawl out a couple of words to jog my memory later – but I forgot to.
Najimy opened up about her struggle with her weight, being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes while she starred alongside Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act, followed by Gestational Diabetes during her pregnancy was later diagnosed with incurable Type 1 Diabetes. I told myself that it would be a good idea to write some words about how she and Goldberg would go to the casino after the day’s shoot, in full nun’s habits, drink whiskey, smoke like trains and gamble all night, just to freak out the other patrons, I laughed so hard that dropped my pencil and didn’t bother looking for it for awhile.
I was transfixed by Najimy’s Aunt Maddie monologue (from The Kathy & Mo Show). Maddie is a lovable middle-aged woman with a nephew who had the courage to come out to his favourite aunt, the heartbreak of losing his life partner to AIDS, having no rights to see him in hospital, finding a new love and marrying. She lamented her own shame of initially not seeing love for what it was – just love… no matter who the two people are. I was so endeared by this amazing woman on stage who, even in character form, promoted marriage equality and gay rights in such a beautifully captivating, heartfelt way, that I totally forgot I was there to work. I wrote nothing!
Kathy Najimy, in opening her heart to the audience, shared her own insecurities in the hope that we could get over ours; to see ourselves than something more that the person we curse in the mirror, as so much more than the expectations that society knocks us down with… and in lifting her own skirt to show us her thighs – that part of her that she has always been ashamed of and kept hidden under long skirts her entire life – she gave us permission to love ourselves just as we are, just as she has learned to do. I only wish I had written it all down so I could share this amazing night of ‘not-really-cabaret’ with you. But I didn’t!
by Catherine Blanch