6ABC Loves The Arts

Sophie Tucker at the Walnut Street Theater

Monday, December 16, 2013

Those of a certain age will remember Sophie Tucker, the naughty ragtime café singer and vaudeville actress with the outsized personality. The Walnut Street Theatre is staging a one woman show that celebrates the first so-called last of the red hot mamas.

Sophie Tucker was known as the queen of the double entendre. Famous for her funny and risqué songs, she was one of the most popular entertainers in the first half of the 20th century.

"What made Sophie a star was her stage presence," says Kathy Halenda, the actress who plays her in the Walnut Street Theatre's production of Sophie Tucker: The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas. "She so immediately connected with the audience. The fourth wall went away and she just loved connecting with the audience."

Married and divorced three times at a time when women didn't divorce, she inspired generations of female stars from Mae West to Ethel Merman and Bette Midler.

"She was brazen," says Hallenda. "She was the first woman to wear pants in public. She talked about things that no one at the turn of the century talked about."

Sophie Tucker actually starred at the Walnut Street Theatre in 1912 and the Forrest Theatre in 1941. Hallenda says the cabaret-style show promises audiences an intimate evening with the woman known as "the first broad of American theatre." "It's just like carefree fun, some good music and a good story with a good old broad."

The Walnut Street Theatre's production of Sophie Tucker: the last of the red hot mamas runs through December 29th. For tickets and show times, go to WalnutStreetTheatre.org.

Or you can visit 6abc.com's Entertainment Channel to find out about other area events.

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