Welsh born Tessie O'Shea may indeed be the very last of the red-hot mamas. The veteran of British music halls pulled out all the stops at the Springfield Hilton last night in a one-woman show that mixed vaudeville slapstick and self-mockery with Irish ballads and reminiscences of a stage career that goes back six decades.
Creating the atmosphere of a roughhouse cabaret from the outset, O'Shea tossed "Thank Ye Luvs" to ringside tables, told her accompanists to "shut up" and at one point seemed inclined to shoot the piano player. With that sort of momentum, she was in and out of fur pieces, multicolored feathered hats and flowing robes as she belted out "Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" and recreated Sophie Tucker in a routine that was part ribaldry and part pathos.
Mixing autobiography and music hall history--in her case the two become one--O'Shea walked, and danced, a thin line between the hilarious and the profound. She's a comic performer in the grand tradition. Pianist Bryon Sommers and drummer Chris Flannery never missed a cue from O'Shea, not an easy task when a performer's raison d'etre is humor that borders on chaos. O'Shea stays through Saturday.