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The Loose Chanteuse 

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New Orleans entertainer Varla Jean Merman (the concoction of singer/comedian Jeffery Roberson) made a three-night stop at Le Chat Noir last week with her new show The Loose Chanteuse. "Loose" it was — much of the monologue between songs was improvised as she chatted with the audience — but there was plenty of "chanteuse" as well (Roberson is a classically trained singer whose next project is an off-Broadway musical). Merman pushed the usual drag-queen humor in a few interesting directions, one of the best of which was a true story about how she, while sleepwalking, promised to buy a neighbor's Marigny house ... a story which segued into "Ambien," a clever rewrite of Elvis Costello's "Alison." And her act nearly approached performance art when she sang a mashup of Mozart's The Magic Flute with Lady Gaga and Beyonce's "Telephone" while accompanying herself on an ocarina iPhone app. (Perhaps you had to be there.) There were occasional missteps — a little less conversation would have been good, and it was hard to make out many of the lyrics from a gangsta-rap rewrite of "My Favorite Things" — but overall this was a nicely twisted one-man show. The Loose Chanteuse was underwritten by a personal-hygiene company (yes, really), which inspired not only a song about inner freshness but gave Merman the chance to play Oprah. "And you get an enema ... and you get an enema!" she squealed, as assistants came from backstage to distribute a box of enemas to each lucky audience member. (The gift gave new meaning to "loose chanteuse.") After the show, Merman stood at the door to sign each box, providing one of the best sights of the night: Uptown matrons toddling down St. Charles Avenue to the parking lot, each clutching an autographed enema. — Kevin Allman

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