The inimitable Babette throws a holiday party
Who: The Millibo Art Theatre
Cast: Birgitta DePree, Jim Jackson, Hannah Rockey and Sara Barad
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: 1367 Pecan St.
Tickets: $15; 719-465-6321, www.themat.org
Next: "Busker and Me" featuring Jim Jackson and Busker the "puppet" dog on Dec. 31-Jan. 6. DePree and company return to the stage with "Babette's Night of Amoré" on Feb. 8-16
Something else: "The Christmas Mouse on Holiday" has eight more performances this and next weekend.
The stage wall is completely covered with holiday decoration and ornaments. Obviously, 'tis the season over at the Millibo Art Theatre.
We came in search of Babette. In truth, her "Holiday Cabaret" is far from the top of the company's concerns. They are in the midst of 17-show-run of "The Christmas Mouse on Holiday." This seasonal addition to her ongoing cabaret "variety shows" has only one performance on Saturday.
"Babette's been around for probably 10 years," says MAT co-founder Birgitta DePree, who, when she fingers an unlit cigarette and dons an unruly auburn-colored wig, transforms into the irrepressible Bulgarian-Brazilian. "She was always the MC for '10 Minutes Max.' That role became bigger and bigger because she started taking over. You see, Babette's all about love and passion and infusing people with that and getting them off their seats into dancing and loving life and she's all about 'Wake up! Smell the vodka.'"
This past summer, Babette did three cabarets, now taking the place of "10 Minutes Max."
"It sort of became like 'The Carol Burnett Show,'" says DePree. She admitted that Babette is "much quirkier" than the legendary songstress-comedienne. "I'm in character when they come in the door. They're greeted, they get a drink, we talk. This is a delicate thing because people think Babette's real. Some people don't know it's me."
The MAT's other co-founder, Jim Jackson, who directed "The Christmas Mouse" and is DePree's husband, has a different role when Babette's in town.
"The cabaret is more of a pick-up kind of show, where people come in and have their stuff together -- though we always do a couple of in-house sketches," he says. "In the cabaret, I'm the straight man: The MC that comes out expecting to do a very traditional show and then Babette arrives and I keep trying to get things going. She's not nice to me, but I drive her a little crazy. There's a tension -- a tension between us. A tension."
The lineup for the cabaret includes vocalist Miriam Roth Ballard, sketch comedians James Reiter and Tilley Lemoines, the "Modbo Singers," featuring Lauren Andrus, Gertrude and Vivian (90-year-old Queens of the Burlesque, who are played by DePree and Hannah Rockey), trapeze artist Natalie Keller, aerial silk-dancer Samantha McKenney and Sara Barad, who is Babette's personal assistant.
"The theme is surviving the holidays," says DePree. "Babette's here to remind you how to get through them with love and passion and enjoy yourself."
Babette talks about the holidays
Gazette: What does Christmas mean to you?
Babette (in her heavy Bulgarian/Brazilian accent): It doesn't matter what it means to me. It matters what it means to you. It's a time we celebrate, eh? Maybe you celebrate lika, lika, lika a religion or maybe you celebrate a tradition. In the past, it was the darkness, you know? Is a dark time. But there is the light- some people it's religious - some people it's like a flashlight. You know why you had to have Christmas tree?
Gazette: Uh, no.
Babette: Because it was the one thing that was still green in the winter when everything is dead. They putta the tree to remember there is always a life possibility. That things can live and will come again. Is evergreen. So the holidays is to stop the ch-ch-ch-ch-chow and to come back to what is important. This is precious moment. We don't have forever to be here.
Gazette: What about the music of Christmas? Do you have a favorite song or carol?
Babette: I do. I do. I like the "Silent Night." Because when you stop and to listen, you remember the magic. Not magic. That's too small a word. We remember: You go outside, is so quiet. Everything's possible
Gazette: You've met Santa before?
Babette: We go way back. But I never talk about boyfriends.
Gazette: Did he give you what you wanted?
Babette: What kind of a rude question is that? That's between me and Santa. You have no place what he gave me to satisfy me. Okay? Keep out of that that there keri-a-kay-kay-a -gug-guh-guh-guh.
Gazette: Okay, I promise.
Gazette: Are you a fan of Christmas gift-giving?
Babette: Life is a gift, huh? Give, give, give. People think gifts are getting. No, is giving. Then you get more. You have to keep giving.
Gazette: Is there a particular gift you are giving this year and also is there a gift you would like to receive this year?
Babette: We have one moment, the 15th of December. The gift would be to laugh with people. To bring them together and for us to be there, kkeh, you know like - alive.
Gazette: Come on, What do you want for Christmas?
Babette: I have everything. I want nothing. You know some times I think, "Oh I want this, I want this, that will make feel better." Is a lie. Nothing makes you feel better then you are right now. It's your attitude. Things don't mean nothing.