Courtney Rizzo, Full-time MBA Class of 2015
Waiting in a long line to enter the Laurie Beechman Theatre in the lower level of the West Bank Cafe, I hardly knew what delight was in store. Tonight, the low-ceilinged dinner theater was occupied by The Vaudevillians, a musical comedy that has turned into quite the off-Broadway hit, brought to us by Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales. Although a Northwest favorite for several years now, Jinkx Monsoon is using her fifteen minutes of national fame from her win on RuPaul’s Drag Race (the reality television drag queen competition show) to show the world that she has the caliber of talent that will be around for a while.
The Vaudevillians has the framework of a musical review, presenting modern pop numbers with a 1920s twist. If you believe their story, the touring vaudeville duo and married couple of Kitty Witless and Dr. Dan Von Dandy were frozen alive in an avalanche, side-stepped death due to massive amounts of cocaine in their systems, and thawed with the aid of global warming, for which they profusely thanked the 21st century audience. Now, in trying to pick up the touring circuit again, they find their “original” songs have all been covered and modernized by pop artists, not to mention their concept of a “mashup” outright stolen.
The show’s winning combination is the coy yet tawdry repartee between Kitty and Dr. Dan interspersed with the recognizable but cleverly arranged tunes, woven into a loose plot where the audience gets a peek into the couple’s history. There was just enough of Jinkx Monsoon’s usual turn-on-a-dime banter in Kitty that you knew who you were watching, and her dedicated and sometimes downright silly physicality made the act hilarious. Although Dr. Dan is the more one-dimensional character, it was he who set the pair squarely as a believable antique with his ragtime riffs on the piano and campy facial expressions. The costume changes were an effective vehicle to help the momentum of the show, and the lighting was a surprisingly nice touch considering the small space.
Don’t miss the smart cultural references; Jerick Hoffer, the man behind the drag as Jinkx Monsoon, and Richard Andriessen, whose alter-ego is Major Scales, became best friends while at college training in “theater legitimate.” Indeed, the most captivating number of The Vaudevillians was during their version of the sequel to Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” Apparently, before Gloria Gaynor got her hands on the tune, it was Nora’s plight that inspired the pair to pen “I Will Survive,” thrillingly reinvented by Ms. Monsoon. It was a great showing of her vocal prowess. After this scene, the night went slightly astray as the plot focused on the rollercoaster marriage of the vaudeville duo – we all know how inter-office relationships can sour. Order another drink to get you through the awkward lull, and soon you’ll be glad you stayed for their reunion and random encores.
If you missed the multiple extensions of the run up until now, The Vaudevillians will be back on select dates between October 14th and October 29th, after Ms. Monsoon returns from promotional travels in the United Kingdom. Performance times vary. Tickets can be purchased through www.SpinCycleNYC.com.
On my way out of the theater I overheard an older woman stop the lad who had been selected for audience participation and apologized for how embarrassed he must have been, pulled onstage, sat in a chair, and being subjected to Kitty Witless’ playfully teasing, glove-slapping number on the women’s suffrage movement, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” I don’t think he minded at all, ma’am.
Seen on Thursday, September 5th (10:00p showing)