After a year where his Mrs. Smith alter-ego had a scary Halloween, hosted a failing fundraiser, and then went to a women's prison, David Hanbury wanted to explore a different side of the character -- the song and dance side, to be exact.
Taking cues from the likes of Liza with a Z and Elaine Stritch at Liberty, Mrs. Smith Live at the Bowl is an autobiographical look at our heroine's life, complete with music from the likes of Cabaret and Company. Of course, it wouldn't be a Mrs. Smith show if it all wasn't just a bit off -- or if something major didn't go wrong.
The roots of the show can be seen in the pieces Hanbury did last year. "There was a song in the fundraiser show that was arranged in a big-band, orchestral way, and Mrs. Smith is a perfect fit for the Broadway-style show tune," he says.
To help craft the show, Hanbury brought in Andrew Rasmussen, whose work with Cardinal Theatricals brought The Rocky Horror Show, Rent, and The Wild Party to local stages.
"I saw the Spooktacular, and I was blown away by Mrs. Smith. What I liked about her is that the character is fully developed. She will take over and create a whole new scenario," Rasmussen says.
The director has helped fill in the gaps for Hanbury. "I was trained more for straight theater, and have done more rock musicals than traditional American musicals. Andrew comes with this encyclopedic knowledge of musicals, songs, and possibilities. It has inspired me to learn more and to listen to more of that kind of music," Hanbury says.
Aided only by the dancing "Broadway Boys," Mrs. Smith will command the stage, singing the tunes live -- no lip-synching, for her life or otherwise -- to the musical accompaniment or on guitar.
"I've always ended up T-boning into the side of drag. On the one hand, I'm a character actor. I fell in with this crew of theater-orientated drag performers in Provincetown. I don't lip-synch. I have respect and admiration for the craft of what drag artists do, but it is different from what I do. For me, there always has to be a story," Hanbury says.
Though the piece is structured, space has been built in for improvisation. "Mrs. Smith can go off. If she sees something or someone, she can go with it. Even in the vamps we have leeway, because you never know what you will get. Every night is always a surprise. There is a sense that this could never be repeated. She will always go off on some tangent," Rasmussen says.
There can even be more serious, honest moments, such as "Do You Want to Dance."
"It's the Bette Midler version. We wanted Mrs. Smith to have a heart, too. She has had these 14 husbands, and this is about that 14th one -- the one person who touched me. It's kind of funny and sad. We have this story about a woman and her missing cat, and we draw people into the zaniness of it, but we wanted to touch down and have a sense of the human moment," Hanbury says.
And if you missed last year's trilogy, not to worry. "We are doing a reboot. If someone hasn't seen Mrs. Smith, you don't have to have seen any of the shows. It's a perfect piece for Mrs. Smith virgins," Hanbury says.
IF YOU GO:
Mrs. Smith Live at the Bowl
Thursday through May 26
Bryant-Lake Bowl 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
$10 for Thursday's preview, $20
For information, call 612.825.8949 or visit online