‘Awesome’ clown displays varied talents in one-man show

Unique Derique sports clownish outfit in “Fool La La Over the Rainbow.” Photo by Eric Carmichael

Lance McGee is a multi-talented fool — fool being his designation for Unique Derique, his stage persona and alter ego.

He works astoundingly hard while displaying his clown character’s skills in a matinee show at The Marsh: executing physical comedy that turns silliness into an art, juggling (tri-colored scarves, orange bowling pins, luminous balls, sundry hats), dancing, feather-balancing, unicycling and amiably turning audience volunteers into comic foils without embarrassing them.

Not to mention electronic hamboning, rhythmically making music by slapping his body while hooked up wirelessly to recorded melodies and sounds.

It’s a feel-good performance fruitfully aimed at families who want to laugh and smile for a full hour — from kids barely more than three feet tall to their slightly shrunken grandparents.

My 11-year-old granddaughter summed up her reaction this way: “Awesome, everything was awesome” — especially, she added, the hamboning.

I couldn’t argue with her assessment.

The heavily slapstick, circus-inspired encore run of “Fool La La Over the Rainbow,” written and performed by a Berkeley native who revels in his “clown prince of fools” marquee moniker, showcased tight direction by Calvin Kai Ku that made the one-man show zoom by.

Aided significantly, I’d say, by the wide range of music Derique employed — hip hop, classic rock, pop, ragtime (and even a traditional Italian refrain).

For most of the show, the entertainer — who has shared stages with Bobby McFerrin, the Temptations, Lou Rawls and Sammy Davis Jr. — was clad in an amusing outfit replete with clashing polka dots and stripes, one black sneaker and one white, and glassless oversized white-rimmed glasses.

Derique’s day job is as a wellness consultant and mindfulness coach for middle-school educators. But he’s been a “fool” for a long time. He began clown training, in fact, at age 15 with Berkeley’s Circus A La Mode, then went on to San Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus and Make*A*Circus.

“Fool La La Over the Rainbow,” which thematically borrows from “The Wizard of Oz,” was followed by a free 20-minute workshop for any theatergoer willing to learn how to juggle scarves and use his or her body as a percussion instrument.

I had to skip it, though. I needed to rush home for my geezer nap because Derique had kept me wide awake and chortling the entire time.

“Fool La La Over the Rainbow” plays at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St. (at 22nd), San Francisco, through May 6. Performances: 1 p.m. Sundays (except for April 29). Tickets: $15 to $35 (plus $55 and $100 reserved seating). Information: (415) 282-3055 or (415) 826-5750 or www.themarsh.org.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/or voodee@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →