Sally Rand was famous or infamous, depending on your opinion, for performing a dance with a pair of feathered ostrich fans that got her arrested on more than one occasion.  Movie producer Cecil B. DeMille gave her this stage name when she was appearing in silent movies, but her unique but not mellifluous voice prohibited her from going on to star in the talkies.

Born Helen Harriet Beck in Missouri in 1904, she started performing under the name of Billie Beck in burlesque before being christened Sally Rand, after the Rand-McNally atlas.  In addition to her fan dance, she also created a balloon bubble dance.  Her life is being showcased in “Fandance:  An Exotic New Dance Musical,” written, directed and starring Misty Rowe, at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport weekends until Sunday, April 25, by New York Theatrical Productions.

This well-meaning piece fails to do justice to its subject matter despite how hard it tries.  The saga of Sally begins after two women meet at a garage sale and bond over a poster of Sally Rand and together they tell her story.  The granddaughter of an austere Quaker, a young Sally, who hates her life, runs away for a dazzling adventure with a traveling circus.

Discovered by Cecil B DeMille, she stars in silent movies until her lisp blocks her advancing when movies get sound.  The Depression hits and by chance she sees an ad for exotic performers at Chicago’s Paramount Club.  She trades a trophy she had won for two giant fans and her career was officially launched. 

Amber Carpenter as the youthful Sally, Suzy Carpenter as Rosie, Joy Franz doing everything from gypsy to jazz, Steve Rossi as comic master of ceremonies, Steve Cassling as cowboy and Robin Field as the great director all try to bring the dreams and the journey to life through twenty-two scenes, eighteen songs and dance numbers and one hundred and fifty costume changes.  The show highlights are Rossi’s “Minnie the Moocher,” a showgirl named Mary’s (Liz Clark Gibson) “So This is Love,” and Franz’s spirited “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”

For tickets ($39.50), call the Downtown Cabaret, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport (exit 27A off I-95 to exit 2) at 203-576-1634 or online at www.downtowncabaret.org.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and  Sunday at

5:30 p.m.  There is no Saturday 5:30 p.m. performance on April 17.

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