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February 6, 2012


CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE's Critic-at-Large reviews HOLE-O-MATIC, the long-running, award winning show presented and performed by the talented duo of Karen Mack and Michael Holland. Mona Finston's reviews appear exclusively on the CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE website.

Hole-O-Matic - Saturdays at 8:00 pm through February at DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-757-0788) - $20 cover/2 drink minimum (cash only).

Pure Unadulterated Joy!

I could probably end my review of Hole-O-Matic right there, but I think Mr. Hamstra would prefer just a bit of elaboration... This duo has received so many (deserved) accolades over the past years that I can add little to the mix - but I'll give it a go anyway.

Apparently, I'm one of the few people in NYC who was not familiar with the glorious duo of Karen Mack and Michael Holland, who've been singing together for 10 years as the ingenious collaboration called Hole-O-Matic. For the few others who might not yet be in the loop, here's the scoop: the duo performs renditions of 1970s and 1980s pop/rock hits. The audience gets to pick the selections for each show from rolodexes on each table, assuring that no two shows will be the same. The songs (on the cards) are grouped into medleys and mash-ups. That's the basic description. Great premise. What can't be as readily described is what happens after the house lights go down. What ensues is a brilliantly sung, hysterically funny, and always loving homage to these memorable songs and decades.

One of the elements that makes this show so engaging is the phenomenal musicianship. Holland's delicious arrangements interweave groups of related songs seamlessly (the mash-ups). Through all the song, tempo and key changes the duo does not miss a beat. Their harmonies are spot-on and they even sing instrumental sections to perfection. These arrangements are intricate and truly clever, something akin to a schizoid musical roller coaster, thrilling and just a bit dangerous. The mash ups were as if (please forgive me for the analogies) someone smashed several beloved pieces of pottery and then created an even more gorgeous mosaic from all the shards. Add to that, Mack's voice is a thing of beauty with a rich, lush, inviting tone that somehow works equally well belting rock standards or performing the most frivolous of the era's love ballads. The fellow sitting at the next table informed me that If I were to hear Holland's versions of Joanie Mitchell songs (not in the show that night) that "I would keel over and die right here." So it came as quite a relief that those songs were not included.

Holland and Mack have a presence on stage that's comfortable, open, and funny. They enjoy a real camaraderie with their ardent fans, many of whom were in the audience the night I saw the show.

I suggest that when you go see Hole-O-Matic that you pick my favorite mash-up of the evening. It was Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" paired with that other model of "less is more" music (not!) "MacArthur Park." Woven together, these two classics are an amazing fit, offering up everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. It was a brilliant celebration of melodic excess. And in keeping with the kitchen sink scenario, Mack showcased several of her other skills during the song including baton twirling. This should not be missed.

It was a pleasure to see a show, for a change, where the songs are not drama and heartbreak laden. Don't misunderstand; I love a good tear-inducing ballad about love gone wrong as much as the next person, but it was lovely to spend an evening of pure unadulterated joy. I can only say that I look forward to my next evening with Hole-O-Matic. They make me very, very happy.

Mona Finston
e-mail me at Mdee50@msn.com


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