By April Hunt
For a stand-up comic, Cheryl Wheeler sat down a lot in her show Saturday night at the Red Light Cafe.
True, Wheeler is actually a singer-songwriter — you know, a folk singer — whose is probably best known for penning hits for the likes of Bette Midler and Dan Seals.
But anyone expecting an earnest folkie warbling and strumming through songs about moonbeams and unicorns was surely disappointed.
A Cheryl Wheeler concert is more heavenly songs about life and daily scenes, sung to a crowd guffawing over her witty behind-the-scenes about crafting certain pieces to unsettlingly funny stories about cremated pets.
“If people are buying tickets, it seems my job to entertain,” Wheeler told me before the show. “There is so much funny stuff in the world и why would I not mention it?”
And so she did.
After a song celebrating the 15th birthday of her cat, Penrod, Wheeler said her pet lived to nearly be nearly 19.
He had since joined other cremated animals on her homeуs Canned Pets shelf, she said, until she decided to use his remains as a percussion instrument on her latest album, Pointing At the Sun.
“The drummer is credited with play CatAsh,с” Wheeler explained, launching into “Summer Fly,” an introspective song about the passage of time that has been recorded by Maura OуConnell.
Wheeler’s rich voice could hush the sell-out crowd in seconds, or have them punctuating her music with laughter, as she sang about the disappointment of Cinco de Mayo in Mingo, Ohio.
Those observations aren’t just about farm towns with easily rhymed names. Wheeler, clad in an old T-shirt and comfy pants, turned her wicked observation on herself by explaining she was sufficiently gussied up on her wedding day by adding a bracelet to her typical wardrobe.
“Any more than that and I look like Klinger,” she said. “It’s like Will Farrell doing Janet Reno when I dress up.”
And from there, into a love song so pitch perfect the audience seemed to collectively hold its breath.
It was a warm and a funny show, but you do kind of have to be there to appreciate, say, the musical and lyrical genius of turning the Mexican Hat Dance into a song about potatoes.
Given the crowds’ pleas for Wheeler to come back soon, you may get the chance.
“I don’t come down here too often, but I wish I did,” Wheeler told the audience before it gave her a standing ovation. “I love this.”
Right back atcha.