There is something utterly intriguing about watching the great Spider Saloff perform. She has that indefinable quality that makes you gravitate toward her undeniable talent. After first seeing Ms. Saloff at the old Maxim's, I was hooked and she certainly has her dedicated fan base which was in attendance the evening I saw the Chicago premiere of her one woman show, "The Roar of the Butterfly" now at a limited run at Victory Gardens.
‘Roar of the Butterfly', has been a work that has transformed over the last decade and is certainly a labor of love for one the world's best jazz singers. ‘Butterfly' was a New York City drag queen who endeared himself to many who would never think of being acquaintances with such a type. In Saloff's musical, we are guests at Butterfly's memorial service being held at a NYC gay bar. One by one, Spider takes on the personas of different people that met Butterfly, usually by happenstance and she tells us through dialogue then song, (all written by Ms. Saloff) how their lives were transformed by this one beguiling soul.
‘Roar' began has a concept almost over a decade ago, but it wasn't until Ms. Saloff suffered several devastating losses in her own life that the shape of this project took its final form. The ‘Roar' had its world premiere in Melbourne, Australia and then a run L.A., (both under a different title) which where productions all directed by the star herself. For the Chicago premiere, she has enlisted Natalija Nogulich, who is more known for her film projects to direct. The result is very mixed.
The subject matter, execution and the performance by Ms. Saloff are outstanding; in fact, I don't know where you can hear any better music on the Chicago scene at the moment. Ms. Saloff is accompanied by the sensational Jeremy Kahn who is another Chicago staple. The problem is in the book itself as it goes on well past its intended effect on the audience. Thirty minutes can easily be trimmed including the intermission and several of the characters she plays out stay their welcome quickly or are not in the correct order to have the emotional impact intended. As with another recent one person show, ‘Me Tube', that was written and performed by You Tube sensation Yuri Lane, there comes a point when the creator must give over the baby to another for unfettered rewrites, and that seems to be the case here.
That being said, just to hear Spider sing "Deep Inside The Rain", which is as big a showstopper as any I have heard in decades is worth the going to see ‘Roar of The Butterfly'. Ms. Saloff reminds us how unique we all are and how we can affect other people's lives without even knowing we have done so. More importantly, it teaches us to have an open spirit, for that is the only way we can become truly transformed.
‘Roar of the Bufferfly' runs through May 20th, at the Victory Gardens' Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. For tickets, call the box office at 773.871.300 or visit VictoryGardens.org