The Diesel Playhouse is currently playing host to Cabaret U-Mano, a puppet-based theatre troupe. But their show has more in common with Meet the Feebles than Lambchop’s Play-Along. True to its name, the show is set up cabaret-style, with different puppet characters coming onstage (alongside their various puppeteers, decked out in adorable lululemon blacks) and performing songs one after another. For the songs, the puppets lip synch to various popular songs – everything from Nina Simone to the Stars on 54 version of “If You Could Read My Mind”. But the gender-bending puppets tend to give balls-to-the-wall performances, often attempting to undress their puppeteers, or themselves. The result is something between The Muppet Show and a drag show.
Cabaret U-Mano is a lot of fun. The puppets are inventive and the puppeteers talented, attractive and smiley. And the music is all quite good (in fact, some of us might have most of the songs on our iTunes already). It wasn’t hard to be charmed by their version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which featured a rather libidinous wolf and sheep who pawed each other and their puppeteers throughout the song. The most impressive number of the evening was probably “Let Me Entertain You” (from the musical Gypsy) performed by a puppet who also did a striptease in which she removed her clothes, then her hair, her face and everything until all that was left were the hands of the puppeteers.
There was just one aspect of Cabaret U-Mano that felt somewhat lacking. Every drag show has its diva and every cabaret has its emcee. Even the Muppets had Kermit. But there are no live vocals in Cabaret U-Mano, only the recordings of other artists. The show could really be tightened and made cohesive by the use of some dialogue on the part of either the puppets or the puppeteers – and this would also make the characters more distinct. But it’s still a totally fun way to spend an evening, and your chances of seeing tranny puppets belt out “Let’s Talk About Sex” outside of this show are sadly few and far between.