Lee Squared - An Evening with Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee

A wonderful evening at the Pilgrim House in Provincetown...
Do yourself a favor this weekend - Go see "Lee Squared" at the Pilgrim House. It's a fun tour de force! (Joni Rapp photo)

I walked into the Pilgrim House last night wondering what to expect from,  Lee Squared  (An Evening with Liberace and Peggy Lee). 

Great singing?  Wonderful piano playing?  Great clothing?  Some Shtick?

The two legendary performers were certainly known for all of that, but I hoped David Maiocco (as Liberace) and Chuck Sweeny (as Peggy Lee) would be more than just a flash (of sequins) in the pan. 

They WERE!  They were wonderful!

Having ALREADY won a Mac Award (Manhattan Association of Cabaret’s) and a Bistro Award in New York City last year (no small achievement) this show did not disappoint!

The stage was simple and sparse …. A small spinet and a microphone stand. I wondered, “What COULD they do with that,” as I took my seat.

All of a sudden, the theatre darkened and the house shook. 

The first few double forte’ notes of  Tchaikovsky’s’  Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor (also known as, Tonight We Love) … could do it!

Then, OUT of the dark POPPED a smiling Liberace, who sat down at the little piano and started to play the rest of the piece.  Beautifully,

Dressed in a black and white sequined pants suit, complete with piano bar lapels, Maioco was the spitting image of Liberace, from the sideburns and e perfect hair to the trademark smile (which I also must credit him for holding for the entire show). 

He arose from the keys staring back at the tiny piano then asking the audience, “Has anyone seen the rest of my piano?” 

He sat back down and launched into an, “Eight to the bar,” Boogie Woogie …but actually had the piano chops to show us a, “Sixteen to the bar” Boogie, (trust me, that’s fast and tricky)!  This man can really play!

Then, an introduction for Miss Peggy Lee…

Out she came… in a floor length, black and white (sequined of course)  gown and eyeglasses (even her microphone was sequined) to match him.  Her blonde hair and almost floor length pearls were stunning.  She struck a pose.   The audience loved it.

She (explained that her band had somehow driven off the bridge to the Cape and, yes, they WERE still alive, but could Liberace fill in for them since she is already here?

Sliding into “Cause I’m a Woman… w o m a n…” Chuck Sweeny (as Peggy) caught us off guard, fascinated and anchored us to her.

They sang a cute duet and Liberace excused himself while Miss Lee amused us with her, rather interesting meeting with the Dali Lama while on her last tour.

By now, we were all told to think of them as Lee and Lee (Her last name and Liberace’s nickname).  Yes, the ads outside DO say, “Two Lee’s for the price of one,” but for clarity’s sake, this reviewer passes on that, with more ahead to write about, Lee Squared.

Clicking her fingers in time…and asking the audience to join in, Sweeny  gets us into the great Peggy Lee tune,  “Fever”, which was one of the highlights of the evening. 

I won’t give it away (though I AM tempted), but every time she said the word, “Fever,” the audience went wild.

Liberace was back in a brand new outfit…(of course) and telling us about meeting Queen Elizabeth and showing us what he played, which was one of the most extraordinary arrangements of, “Tea for Two,” I had ever heard.

I’m sure it was right from the Liberace archives, as Maiocco (who went to the Boston/New England Conservatory), but can also play by ear and has been able to teach himself most of Liberace’s arrangements…many never having been written down). 

Personally, I never cared for the tune until tonight.

Another change of clothes by Miss Lee…and an update on the band that drove off the bridge.

I was very impressed with the comedy talents of both of these performers, but when Miss Lee, in her white, sequined gown (with puffy sleeves), seriously undertook doing Tina Turner’s, “Proud Mary”  … I sat motionless; absorbed and mesmerized. 

I could not take my eyes off Sweeny’s poor Peggy, caught up in the storm of music, backup singers and pure energy that makes that arrangement the iconic piece of music it is. 

She sure showed us her rhythm; in dance, gesture and facial expression.

I’d say more, but THIS has to be seen, not described.

It was hilarious!   It was hysterical.  It was brilliant!

At this point Liberace returned in a lavish costume, with a fur trimmed floor length cape.  A very handsome young male assistant helped him off with it and he sat at the piano and said,  “I picked up a little Latin at Tea Dance …and I want to play it for you now.

He launched into a stunning version of the intricate Spanish song Malaguena.

Miss Lee joined him on stage for her, “ Big ballad” (again, great quips and jokes, but you need to  hear them for yourself). 

She noted,  “I bet you’re all sitting out there wondering, “Is That All There Is?” 

After the laugh (of course) she segued into her second most famous song.  All I can tell you is that a few word changes made the song into something too funny to even write about.  I truly was almost doubled over with laughter.

Following that came a duet of Disco, Funk, Rock, Rap, Hip-Hop and some types of music I am not sure what to call was perfect at that moment.  They sang and danced and got so loose it was like a party. 

With all the movement happening on the small stage, I thought at one point that, “Peggy Lee” was going to accidentally knock, “Liberace’s” candelabra off the little piano.  She did not.

After a sweet and tender duet (as they caught their breath) they launched into the finale’ …which, of course,  was “I’ll Be Seeing You,” Liberace’s theme song. 

The standing ovation was well-deserved.

David Maiocco,  totally captures the “Sweet, adorable and extremely proficient musician and performer” that was, at one point the Liberace America fell in love with. 

He really studied the man.  From his appearance, to his smile and his whole persona.  How he often admired what he is doing …as he was  doing it; how he always tried to look, well, “Pretty.”

He not only plays a beautiful piano on his own, but his acting is quite good and so is his comedy.  He

Chuck Sweeny found his way to Provincetown back in the early nineteen-eighties while still in college.  He began singing at the piano bars in town and realized he had a flair for female impersonation. He’s done them all; Judy, Liza, Carol Channing (and she is easy to still see living within him) but he loves doing Peggy Lee the most.

We loved it too.

Both men spent years in New York, doing well on their own, but often working together and came up with the idea of  this show after each got to see their idols live. 

They spent over fifteen years getting, “Lee Squared” together (between the music, the writing and the hand-made costumes.

Do yourself a favor this weekend.  Go see, Lee Squared.

It was truly fun  having Miss Peggy Lee and Liberace JUMP back into the world, if only in semi-comical form and for just a little while.

While Chuck Sweeny is in Drag while impersonating Peggy Lee, it’s actually NOT a Drag show at all.  He is just “Acting” as is David Maiocco as the “other” Lee. 

I truly enjoyed the show …and am also thankful the Pilgrim House has such good air conditioning. 

If You Go

Lee Squared:  An Evening with Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee is at The Pilgrim House for only TWO MORE Performances: 

TONIGHT (Fri. Aug. 3rd and Tomorrow, Sat. Aug 4th at 7PM!

For tickets call: Call 508-487-6424

Or stop by the box office at 336 Commercial Street, Provincetown

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