A figure, his back to the audience, slinks onto the stage inside the Pabst Theater. He’s clad in a black suit and hat and carries an umbrella the same color. The intro music blares. The stage lights bounce around the hall. The crowd goes bonkers. With Gene Kelly agility, the figure turns and pulls off his hat, tossing it to stage right. He lobs his umbrella to stage left. He smiles. Eddie Izzard, ladies and gentlemen.
Over the course of two-plus hours on Tuesday night (one of two shows at the Pabst), the award-winning British comic and actor engages the audience, many of whom appear to have been engaged before – whether through his live performances, videos (1999’s “Dress to Kill”), or acting gigs (Valkyrie, TV’s “The Riches”). When his charmingly rambling, free-associative monologue references his prior stand-up routines, the audience hoots and applauds with recognition and approval. The 52-year-old’s repertoire hits on religion, politics, pop culture, transvestism, historical events, transvestism. Izzard calls himself an “executive” transvestite or “male tomboy.” He’s known for a flamboyant look, his hair spiked and bleach blond. But on this his 2014 “Force Majeure” Tour, Izzard’s look is restrained, except for the face makeup, red fingernails and high heels.
Izzard’s canny mimicry is a large part of his routine. That includes impersonations of people (Sean Connery), animals (chickens) and sounds made by inanimate objects. Add to that his ability to perform in French (a running gag featured his use of the term “et voila” — which is French for “and there it is” — at key times in his monologue) and German.
Also on Tuesday night, British rocker Elvis Costello was the featured act at the Riverside. (Izzard mentioned talking with his compadre backstage before the show.) I suspect few Izzard show attendants felt conflicted about which Brit they’d rather see.
Izzard performs a second show at the Pabst Theater (144 E. Wells St.) on Wednesday, June 11 at 8 p.m. Click here for more info.