This decisively proves that Jinkx Monsoon is far more than just the latest winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The artist otherwise know as Jerrick Hoffer is, at the very least, one of the most talented and successfully ambitious drag artists of his generation. At most, his work in The Vaudevillians shows that he has the potential to develop into a drag performance artist worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Taylor Mac, John Kelly and Justin Vivian Bond.
The Vaudevillians isn’t quite as searching as the best work of those artists, but it is certainly very much more than your typical gay bar drag act. The only thing it has in common with a bar show is performances of campy hit tunes both recent and classic. Here, however, those songs are sung live, and in a very different style than they were originally.
They’re filtered through this kooky conceit: In the 1920’s the married vaudeville team of Kitty Witless (Monsoon/Hoffer) and Dr. Dan Von Dandy (Richard Andriessen), while touring through Antarctica, were victims of a devastating avalanche, instantly freezing them alive. But thanks to Global Warming, they recently thawed, out only to discover that pop artists of various decades had “stolen their music and passed it off as their own!”
Hoffer and Andreissen (a more than equal acting and singing partner for his charismatic leading lady) make smart and witty use of this approach, for example combining a story out of Henrik Ibsen and a song done by Gloria Gaynor to create a torchy twenties-style anthem (when a good portion of the audience proved to have no idea who Ibsen was, Kitty tch-tched and proclaimed “go out and read a book, fer gawdssake!”). They also skew their interpretations to the raunchier and darker edge of vaudeville, avoiding its mustier, more dated aspects – except when doing so makes the joke work.
The evening has something of an arc, and even something of an edge; I’d say, tonewise, Kitty and Dr. Dan are the missing link between the wide-eyed innocence of Mickey & Judy and the corrosive cynicism of Kiki & Herb. This is an immensely entertaining introduction to a performer I hope visits New York often – let it be Monsoon season all the time!
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.