Review: “Kevin McDonald ALIVE on 42nd Street” at Theatre Row

How poetically full circle must Kevin McDonald feel this week, performing a new solo show across the street from the Hell’s Kitchen venue where Kids in the Hall first introduced themselves to live American audiences 32 years ago.

McDonald’s career remains alive and kicking, taken even more literally when he’s singing.

So here he is, as goofy and charming as ever, with Kevin McDonald ALIVE on 42nd Street at Theatre Row. It’s an easy, breezy hour-plus of stories and songs. Dave Foley provides a recorded intro that includes audience instructions. Later, McDonald reveals that his fellow KITH members, after watching it for themselves, implored of him: “Tell them before you leave that you’re not sad!”

He’s not, so don’t let all the self-deprecation fool you.

McDonald had sat down with me for my podcast three years ago. Back then, and still now, he earns a living through a mix of voiceover work, guest-starring roles in sitcoms, and by teaching sketch comedy to aspiring writers and performers (which he told me all about six years ago). Only now, he also lives in Winnipeg when he’s not gigging on the road, thanks to a loving relationship that also finds him playing stepfather of sorts to two children too young to know him as one of the Kids in the Hall.

He jokes about that and more in one of the five original songs in this show, about living in “Not L.A.,” as well as another song, where he’s a “Sugar-Free Sugar Daddy.” On the songs, he’s accompanied by guitarist John Wlaysewski (from the band, Late Cambrian). Whether he’s singing about his “minor celebrity” or his “passive aggressive” nature, McDonald is quite energetic in giving it his all. You might say he has moves like Jagger…having a seizure.

Fans of Kids in the Hall will absolutely adore McDonald’s stories, which run mostly in chronological order, from an early disastrous gig in 1985 where McDonald and Scott Thompson had no cover from their KITH-mates, to those initial shows at the West Bank Cafe across the street from Theatre Row, back in 1987, when their opening act was an older unknown comedian by the name of Lewis Black, into the heydays of the 1990s, and eventually landing on a story in London more recently where McDonald found himself confronted with his own mortality. Or cowardice. Or both.

He said he’s only done the show a handful of times before starting this week’s limited engagement.

Here’s hoping there’s many more opportunities for McDonald to develop and expand the show even further.

Kevin McDonald ALIVE on 42nd Street at Theatre Row runs through Aug. 31.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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