By Aine Abruscati (@AAbruscati)
I only hope that by the time I reach 81 years old, I will have loved, experienced and accomplished half as much as the veteran cabaret performer D’yan Forest has in her lifetime. This charismatic performer has been entertaining audiences for seven decades and in her latest, funny and heartwarming show, A Broad Abroad, seen at the Frigid Festival, she shared some of these incredible stories.
With a smile that stretches on for days, Forest takes us on a journey of her love affair with Paris, which began many years ago. Relying on her accompanist, minimal props and songs both familiar and less known, she describes moving to France at a young age and immersing herself in studies of “men, life and pantomime.” Eventually, she lands a gig at a nightclub and on opening night, performs the title song from the musical “Hello Dolly” that ends up landing flat with her audience of Francophiles. Thankfully, she recovers, delivering a hauntingly beautifully rendition of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” and ultimately wins over the crowd. When Forest sings the moving French tune, you know that she has fully experienced the love and yearning captured in the lyrics.
Besides her knack for storytelling and singing, Forest is also a riot. “I’ve seen a lot of the world – and a lot of the world has seen me.” In a manner that is comically classy, she reveals sensual moments from her many affairs and relationships. At 81, she is still sexy and beautiful, and you don’t have any trouble envisioning the different men that came and went in her life. When Forest breaks into “Don’t Tell Mama,” complete with choreography, you have a slight inkling that her days as a cabaret performer in Paris’ cafes might change. And they do, when unknowingly to Forest, her mother flies in from New York and appears at one of her shows. Displeased with her daughter’s lifestyle and job, she purchases a one-way ticket back home to the states. But Forest’s adventures don’t stop there. She eventually moves to New York, embracing the city’s cabaret scene and men that live here.
Throughout the show, Forest delights us with her versatile talents, including her ukulele and piano playing ability. She makes great use of the small stage and connects with the crowd, cozying up to one man in the audience and throwing a pair of underwear to another. There isn’t much of a set and there isn’t a need; the cabaret style works, as Forest is dynamic enough to fully hold our attention for the entirety of the short program. Here’s hoping that she’ll continue to delight and inspire audiences for years to come.
Frigid New York is a fringe festival located in the heart of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with shows at both The Kraine Theater and Under St. Marks. The festival ran from February 16-March 6. For information on the festival, visit www.FRIGIDnewyork.info.