I was privileged to be in the third row tonight for the 8 p.m. performance of Hamilton, this season's hottest ticket. It was easy to figure out why the show has become a celebrity magnet and cash cow, and the answer had nothing to do with it being simply trendy.
The short answer is that it's fucking brilliant. The longer answer, with spoilers, follows ...
A reader contacted me on Grindr on Sunday morning to say:
I skipped Broadway Bares last year after getting reamed for taking photos at a Solo Strips, but returned Sunday for Broadway Bares 25: Top Bottoms of Burlesque, the silver-anniversary installment of Jerry Mitchell's unfortunately-still-necessary AIDS charity show that rounds up as many hot and talented chorus boys and girls from Broadway and Broadway-adjacent (and a few who just have roommates on Broadway) to put on a one-night only, two-times only, razzle-dazzle-'em-at-any-cost show.
I decided to go back because I missed the good time and knew the dancers always seem to like having photos to share, people affiliated with the show “like” them on Instagram, etc. Where we stood, everyone around us had their phones out. I think the rule about photos is a misguided fear that it will bite into the show's revenues. In reality, since it's a show that happens once a year, seeing photos from it just encourages people to come the following year, and/or to seek out the merch. I have had a lot of readers say they now travel in for the show thanks to the photos I've posted. So hopefully it helps.
You would think this year's title would mean it was going to be 100% up my alley (I am the original ASSMAN), but I found it to have no more or less tail than past editions, save for its hilariously sexy opening—the curtain lifted to just above waist-level to reveal a bevy of dimpled booties peeking out at the crowd. It was not unlike waving a turkey at a bunch of starving bums on Thanksgiving and saucily asking, “White meat or dark?”
I swear Nick Adams's ass and this tableau could be a Mel Odom illustration.
Directed by Jerry Mitchell and Nick Kenkel, who choreographed it with Laya Barak, Jim Cooney, Armando Farfan Jr., Peter Gregus, Ryan Lyons, Brice Mousset, Rachelle Rak, Michael Lee Scott, Kellen Stancil and Sidney Erik Wright, the show loosely followed the travails of a wannabe played by Nick Adams, he of the Mario Lopez-threatening biceps.
Orange is the new black corset!
Adams starts out too shy to be a stripper, but luckily falls in with the wrong crowd and everything works (and comes) out in the end.
Along the way, the show included 11 tight numbers (it felt super fast this go-round, and I hated the Hammerstein venue as compared to the more spacious and now vanished Roseland), often takes on classic show tunes, always ending with a little more nudity than you might encounter in a locker room.
Baby, if Callan's the bottom, I'm the top.
“Take It from the Top” was a sterling opener starring Harvey Fierstein and Callan Bergmann, a one-time Mr. Broadway, the latter of which as a great opener. Bergmann's were choice cheeks to inaugurate a buns-hun show, and he was one of the performers who really shone this year.
Before Pam Ann's latest show Flight 72 (Stage 72 at the Triad), my sexy companion warned me not to try to be funny if she asked me any questions. It hadn't dawned on me that Pam Ann, a blowzy flight attendant character invented by stand-up comic (and writer) Caroline Reid, was likely going to lean heavily on audience participation, my worst fear in life, right ahead of terrorism and getting to the point where a crane has to remove me from my home.
As the show unfolded, I narrowly dodged being singled out (she put my friend to work serving drinks and said his fake Izod's crocodile had probably crawled off in shame) but began to miss the abuse that others received. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a 70-year-old retiree and be asked if your wife were your bitch? Thing is, as pointed as Pam can be, she rarely gets truly mean so much as she gets deeper into a character so ridiculous she becomes more surreal than she becomes a garden-variety Donna Rickles; the insults don't stick.
A video posted by Pam Ann (@pamannwantsagram) on Jun 6, 2015 at 3:36pm PDT
Pam's like an Australian Joan Rivers with a barf bag—she's loud, she's crass (she wistfully hoped Kim Kardashian's baby would have Down syndrome), she puts on her face with a paintbrush. But in spite of her overbearing schtick, she has an unlikely sexiness (she's as in heat as Lisa Lampanelli) that oozes out of her carefully constructed costume. She's like a good-looking Patti Stanger, and she's also—almost forgot!—one of the most gifted stand-ups I've ever seen.
Pam's brilliance is in making truly awful comments (I wouldn't recommend her act to sensitive types, like fragile trans teens or French lesbians unwilling to cede the spotlight) truly funny and somehow makes them okay. But what's truly impressive is how effortlessly she mixes scripted stories with spontaneous responses to her rowdy audience. The night we went, she had two separate drunkards heckling her, and she handled them easily enough that she couldn't help bragging, “I could do this all night.”
A video posted by Pam Ann (@pamannwantsagram) on Jun 12, 2015 at 10:41pm PDT
The fact that her air-travel humor is sometimes so specific never made it any less instantly funny, even to those of us whose travel histories involve Google-mapping Dunkin Donuts locations. She was particularly on when razzing Air France hostesses, the ones so chic and thin they disappear when they turn sideways. “Air France! You are NOT cleared for take-off!” she barked, imitating an air-traffic controller at JFK, to which Air France replied, in a blasé accent, “We are going.”
She filled two hours, resting only during two hysterically funny short movies, including one that inserted her into The Sound of Music.
There's no easy way to do justice to how funny Pam Ann is, so just fasten your seat belts and ... you know the rest.
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales are back with The Vaudevillians II: Bringing Up Baby, a drag show that continues their tradition of mining the past to make fun of the present. The twist this time is that Jinkx's character is preggers, but don't expect me to give away the third trimester of the show—you'll have to check that out yourself.
I've known Marcus Monroe, a juggler and comedian, since he was a teenager. But I only knew him remotely—he would pitch me when I ran a teen mag, and I would put him in when possible because he was charming indefatigable in getting the word out about his unique talents.
Finally, we met in person last week when he did his show IAMFAMOUS at Joe's Pub at the Public. It was the perfect venue for his act, which could be described as a mix of groaner-stoner humor, anarchic witticisms and, you know, throwing stuff and catching it.
When he cracked a 420 joke, Monroe followed with, “I'm a professional juggler—figure it out.”
Monroe skillfully displays a supreme unconfidence on stage, playing a dippy character so well that his occasional zingers are doubly surprising—the topics of politics, drugs, race, gender, sexual identity and, predominantly, popular culture are touched on.
He was occasionally off the mark, such as the time he shouted, “Black-out!” to indicate the lights should go down, and two black audience members in the front row hurriedly got up to leave. Stuff like that felt a little less carefully conceived than his elaborate run-down (and stealth running-down of) what it means to be Internet-famous.
The show ended with a fake money shot of geyser-like proportions and Marcus gussied up as “Angel” from Rent, but those moments weren't nearly as outrageous as when he aggressively juggled razor-sharp knives.
The guy is good! Glad I wrote about him back in the day; turns out he deserved it.
The audience included actor Fred Weller and, front and center, Lucie Arnaz and Larry Luckinbill. I'd met Lucie after her amazing cabaret show, but had always wanted to meet Larry so I could gush to him about The Boys in the Band (1970), which I was finally able to do. It was very interesting stealing glances at Lucie as she took in the show (she has produced him in the past), thinking of the old-school comedy greats she had known and seen in action; she seemed as impressed as anyone else, and as surprised by the steady stream of out-of-nowhere one-liners coming from the dude tossing around bowling pins.
I thought my friend Mark MacKillop's show at 54 Below was going to be straight, or rather gay, cabaret, but that was before I realized the title was A ballet dancer/one-summer's-go-go-boy/aging model/aspiring musical theatre star/alcoholic sings the standards, or A Night with Mark MacKillop.
Mark MacKillop, the latest hot piece found in the basement of Studio 54
From the get-go, it was clear MacKillop wasn't going to simply croon, but was more interested in getting laughs, often at the expense of his own lampooned ego. He went on an aggressive smarm offensive worthy of Cinderella's Prince in Into the Woods, and it paid off. He oozed confidence, then pointed at the ooze and laughed at it.
His singing was solid, too, though jumps from surgically delivered satire sometimes made for slightly awkward transitions, especially when he was belting out something as over-the-top earnest as a signature Céline Dion tune.
But those moments were few and far between. More common were moments of hilarity, and some transcendent connections between singer and song.
Laura Oldham, as his bikini-clad helper, assisted MacKillop as he sang his way through the six steps to Insta-fame, sometimes snarkily and sometimes sincerely. She got huge laughs for her progressively drunken, seemingly improvised shtick, and MacKillop graciously shared the stage and his audience's appreciation for her bravura contributions. It was a match made in heaven, as both Oldham and MacKillop are hot, but were poking fun at themselves as if they were not.
I don't know where you think BeDeLaCreme falls in the ranking of all of RuPaul's greatest queens, but her spot would be infinitely, intergalactically higher if you ever catch her one-drag-queen show BenDeLaCreme's Cosmos.
Closing today at the Laurie Beechman (but back in the fall), the piece shows off DeLa's amazing sense of wordplay (which is light years beyond duh-obvious puns) via her stupid-smart character, who flits from space cadet to rocket scientist with the greatest of ease.
The entire show spoofs science (how's that for subject matter?), all the while communicating the basic premise of quantum mechanics, cell theory, the Big Bang, evolution and more ... accurately!
If your theory is that BenDeLaCreme is one of her generation's most talented drag queens, it's highly provable—only your attendance is required.
Catch her any time you can. Uranus will thank you.
Thomas Dekker, Peaches Christ, Jinkx Monsoon, Mink Stole & Bob the Drag Queen
Barely made it to the second sold-out show of Return to Gray Gardens, the one-night-only presentation by Peaches Christ (fresh, arguably, from San Francisco) that spoofed the classique Grey Gardens (1975).
Christ came through with a stellar case, including Thomas Dekker (Heroes, All About Evil), Mink Stole of John Waters infamy and NYC's own Bob the Drag Queen, attempting Onassis realness. Two hunks were on hand to play the Maysles Brothers, who directed the original. (One was doing double-duty as choreographer, werk.)
Lots of pussy on that stage.
Jinkx Monsoon, as Little Edie from the film, was the obvious highlight, but you know that if you saw her Snatch Game appearance on RuPaul's Drag Race, which the bitch won in a walk.