Tony Braithwaite and Jennifer Childs star in "Let's Pretend We're Famous." Credit: Mark Garvin
Tony Braithwaite and Jennifer Childs are self-confessed comedy nerds.
The local actors can recite bits from obscure vaudeville acts, Woody Allen films, Nichols & May skits, George Burns monologues, and plenty more — verbatim.
Over the last 13 years they have collaborated on over a dozen salutes to their favorite comedians. But their most recent cabaret-style send-ups, including “Let’s Pretend We’re Famous” at Act II Playhouse, have featured more original material. The show originally premiered in 2012, but — as with every almost endeavor by this pair — the material is constantly evolving.
“I’ve become addicted to the high wire act of improvisation — working with an audience and audience suggestions,” says Braithwaite from his office at Act II, where he's the artistic director. “There’s nothing as exciting as that. So, for me, anything that has that element, you can pretty much convince me to do it.”
And “Famous” is perhaps the most improvisation-heavy piece the pair has created to date, including a bit that takes an audience member from discovery, to stardom, to fame, to failure, to rehab and, finally, to the big comeback, all in 15 minutes.
While the show isn’t explicitly personal, the material certainly speaks to the baser instincts of any actor. Braithwaite moved to Philadelphia in the mid ‘90s after a short stint in L.A., where his acute bout of fame-lust was almost completely extinguished.
“I think any actor that says they didn’t ever want to be famous at any point is probably lying. But ultimately most of us come to realize that it’s a shallow and fleeting kind of a desire,” he explains. “One of the things you understand as a regional theater actor is that fame isn’t going to be in the cards, so you put your energy elsewhere. But you can still laugh at past ambitions.”
“Let’s Pretend We’re Famous” Jan. 7-26 Act II Playhouse 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler $23-$34, 215-654-0200 www.act2.org