Review: The Cher Show

This ain’t no chickenshit gig! Whatever problems it may have (mostly the structural difficulties all jukebox bio-musicals share), The Cher Show is rarely less than spectacular, and derives a lot of comedy from it’s sharp-toungued, free-speaking subject.

Cher is played by three different actresses of different ages. The real star is Stephanie J. Block as the mature Cher, who narrates the show and sings the biggest numbers. (This isn’t the first time Block has played a gay icon – she played Liza Minnelli in The Boy from Oz. Is she on a quest to play all of them?). Cher’s a perfect fit for Block, who makes playing to the back row seem effortless. She, and the other two Chers, sing in a loose imitation of Cher’s style, leaning more on delivering the emotional core of the songs than a precise impersonation.

Bob Mackie, whose outlandish costumes for TV’s The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour helped form Cher’s public persona, also designed the costumes for this. Aside from adding glamour to the proceedings – especially in an eye-popping production number that is all about those outfits – Mackie reminded me that under the sequins, he is a visual storyteller of the first order, and a surprisingly subtle one at that. The sparkle will hook you, but the details are where he really does his work.

Jason Moore’s fluid direction smartly leans into variety show glitz and giddy kitsch, and Christopher Gattelli’s choreography is here to entertain and astound you with it’s energy and flash. The Cher Show is hardly perfect, but it’s undeniably lots of fun, and recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales

For her new cabaret show at Joe’s Pub, entitled The Ginger Snapped, we find a manic Jinkx Monsoon being psychoanalyzed by her musical counterpart, pianist / composer / raconteur Major Scales. This show is their first to feature almost entirely new music, all from her new album of the same name.

Their first New York cabaret show, The Vaudevillians, was such a runaway success that it’s become a running joke in their shows that “I think the audience was expecting The Vaudevillians. Oops!” While good for a laugh, that self-deprecation isn’t necessary, since this show is equally accomplished, just in a very different way.

Monsoon and Scales are more entertaining and smart than the vast majority of the competition. The material from the album is heavily influenced by New Wave (heck the B-52’s Fred Schneider even guests on one track). Both Monsoon and Scales first appear in medical smocks that recall Tim Curry in Rocky Horror. Very shortly, though, Jinkx strips down to a black one-piece lace foundation garment, which she later covers with a silky black dressing gown trimmed with feathers and rhinestones. Simple yet fabulous.

The Ginger Snapped is light years more thoughtful, tuneful and original than your typical cabaret drag act, while rarely being less than acidly hilarious. Very funny but with genuine rage and love just below the surface.

For the Joe’s Pub calendar, click here.

To keep up with Jinkx, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

Interview: Sven Ratzke

Dutch singer Sven Ratzke had a sparkling opening night a Joe’s Pub last night, with a whole bunch of East Village glitterati in attendance, including nightlife legends Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell, pioneering performance artist Penny Arcade, Matthew Crosland and Dan Fortune. Ratzke was doing the American premiere of his club act Homme Fatale, and I had this brief exchange with him about the show.

For the purposes of this show, what is your definition of Homme Fatale?

A Homme Fatale is a man that you can compare to a femme fatale. He can be dangerous, wild, and seductive: a pimp, hustler, womanizer, Casanova, Mephisto and many more characters. A Homme Fatale can be also get lost in his own mystery or his own role. But a Homme Fatale means also a man that overcomes fate, that gets in a fatal situation. That can be very feminine and mysterious. So it’s open to interpretation!

Does the idea of Homme Fatale have anything to do with androgyny?

Yes, of course it can. Seduction is always associated with females, while males are more the predator. I totally do not agree. I think especially in our time, these lines are crossing.

Are you a Homme Fatale?

Yes, of course. It’s a title I got a long time ago from the European press. In the beginning, I didn’t know what they meant. I was intrigued.

What, musically, should we expect from this show?

A lot of original new songs. I asked amazing songwriters to write stories and songs for me. And I wrote many songs myself, alone or in collaboration, for example, with the New York-based Rachelle Garniez. And we give new interpretations of the “Hommes Fatale” of pop: Lou Reed, David Bowie, Joy Division and Iggy Pop.

What, theatrically, should we expect from this show?

I take the audience on a trip, like LSD. But you will have no hangover the next day! A trip into the night, around the world with crazy storytelling, swinging songs and intimate ballads. And I’m an entertainer, a stage animal.

This show is about “pimps, lovers, thieves, legends, angels and devils” – that sounds like Jean Genet’s world. Is he an influence here?

Oh yes! A wild Genet dream with a touch of Oscar Wilde, Fassbinder, Bowie and many more.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

Review: Raja

We always knew she was a goddess! One of the most effortlessly stylish queens ever to appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race is making her much-anticipated solo cabaret debut at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Aptly titled Gawdess, the show features a little bit of everything: some singing, a whole lot of fashion fierceness, and, thank you Gawdess, some good old-fashioned lip-synching!!! In particular, a slinky lip-synch to Sade’s “Is It A Crime” is legendarily good.

And even though she says “that all the choreography you’re going to get” after a handful of steps in her opener – a sung cover of Banarama’s “Venus” – don’t you believe it. Raja swirls, twirls and dips with aplomb throughout the entire act, most impressively undulating a large golden cape with such skill that she reminded of modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller.

The show isn’t ambitious – it’s peppered with life lessons Raja’s picked up, but she doesn’t linger on them – but it’s such a good time! Raja has a warm charismatic presence, which makes you think she’d be able to put over just about anything she puts her mind to. Here, she’s not trying to do anything but give us sheer glittery gay fun, and she succeeds splendidly. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

Casting Call: Drag Stars needed for Fringe Musical I’m directing!



5 Performances, NYC Fringe Festival, August, 13, 15, 19, 22 & 27, various times. Rehearsals, July 15-opening, evenings.

Auditions: July 6, 7 & 8, 2016. 7p.m. to 10p.m. At BoConcept: 144 W. 18th Street, NYC.

For audition appointment:

* look for us on (preferred), or
* contact Jonathan Warman directly at

More info and music samples:

Seeking big drag personas, gender-funk, trans-actors, for a poly-gender, spiritual, mystery musical. Singers, dancers, comedians, lip-sync. 6 roles, age 20-40. 6 roles, age 40-70. Big characters. Plus one young muscular male, and one Judy Garland impersonator.

Audition in drag/gender-funk, or bring a photo.


20 to 40 years old, all ethnicities male. Man in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). A starring part with singing and silent acting only — no lines. A powerful queer spirit guide.

40 to 70 years old, all ethnicities male. Man in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). Always the show-woman / show-off, but also very tough. Lead role, singer/actor.

40 to 70 years old, all ethnicities male. Man in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). Sweet and a bit mystical, comedian, very funny. Lead role, singer/actor.

40 to 70 years old, all ethnicities male (could be FTM trans) in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). Military type, some severe up in here. Lead role, singer/actor.

40 to 70 years old, all ethnicities MTF trans or cisgender man in drag. Fierce, fierce, fierce. Lead role, singer/actor.

40 to 70 years old, all ethnicities Policeman, stately and stern, butch yet androgynous, with secrets to spare. Lead role, singer/actor.

20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities male. Gorgeous young muscle stud eye candy. Has a solo song and some dialogue.

20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities male. Man in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). Always the show-woman / show-off, but also very tough. Major role, singer/dancer.

20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities male. Man in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). Sweet and a bit mystical, comedian, very funny. Major role, singer/dancer.

20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities male (could be FTM trans) in drag (room for “gender-funk”, a beard is possible but not required). Military type, some severe up in here. Major role, singer/dancer.

20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities. MTF trans or cisgender man in drag. Fierce, fierce, fierce. Major role, singer/dancer.

20 to 50 years old, all ethnicities male or female. Impersonator of the legendary singer. Must give a convincing illusion of Miss Garland’s vocals, appearance and mannerisms. Has a featured song.

40 to 45 years old, African American male or female. Woman or man in drag. Non-speaking dignified impersonation of the legendary civil rights activists. Depending on acting and vocal abilities may double as Service Wo-Man, Counterpoint, or Alliteration.


July 15, 2016 – June 27, 2016

Review: New York Spectacular

Rockettes New York Spectactular

If you love New York, there are a handful of lump-in-your-throat moments in the Rockettes’ New York Spectacular. Sure, they are rather baldly emotionally manipulative, but I for one didn’t care – I got the feeling that all of the creators of this extravaganza were sincere in their own love of the Big Apple, and that makes a big difference.

Of course the Rockettes have been famous for over 80 years for their Christmas Spectacular. New York Spectacular replaces Christmas with the city itself, to marvelous effect. Broadway scribe Douglas Carter Beane (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Xanadu, The Nance) weaves a story of two tourist kids separated from their parents during a summer vacation. Beane hit upon the clever idea of having the statues of the city be the children’s guides. In particular Euan Morton is fantastic, in silver-toned voice as main guide Mercury (from the front of Grand Central Terminal).

But of course the Rockettes are the star of the show. Their first entrance is breathtaking, as they charge through jets of stage fog, marching rapidly forward with their signature precision. The whole opening number totally whets the appetite for what follows. Highlights include a “Singing in the Rain” number in Central Park, a Fashion Avenue tribute set to Madonna’s “Vogue” – which has the added pleasure of seeing the Rockettes in glitzy non-matching outfits by Emilio Sosa (Project Runway, Motown the Musical, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess) – and a finale satisfyingly full of high kicks.

Stunning projections by Moment Factory add considerably to the all-over spectacle. Director/choreographer Mia Michaels has pulled together a daunting number of elements and collaborators to put together an extravaganza that can hold its head up high next to the Rockettes’ legendary holiday-season shows. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

News: Opera I’m directing – “Goyescas” – opens TONIGHT


I’ve directed a new production of Enrique Granados’s 1916 opera Goyescas, which opens tonight and runs through November 22. Tickets available here.

Here’s a promotional video:

Love, death, seductive music, and fiery dance come together this November in the opera Goyescas. Bare Opera presents this bohemian opera by Spanish composer Enrique Granados, inspired by the lush paintings of Goya. Set in the vibrant urban landscape of 1980s Madrid, this tragic romantic tale features rapturous songs and flamenco-inspired dance.

The opera will be paired with charming selections from Isaac Albéniz’s Suite Española, specially arranged for orchestra and dance for this production.

This bold new production is directed by Jonathan Warman, choreographed by Liz Piccoli, and features costumes by fashion designer Laura Kung. Bare Opera’s principal conductor, Sesto Quatrini, leads the performances.

Review: Mighty Real

Mighty Real

This show takes electrifying flight When Anthony Wayne is singing, channeling “The Queen of Disco” Sylvester. And since there is more singing than talking in this show, Mighty Real spends most of its time soaring through disco heaven.

Wayne is a phenomenal singer and a magnetic performer, both of which you have to be if you want to even come close to the spirit of Sylvester. His back-up singers Martha Wash (played by Jacqueline B. Arnold) and Izora Armstead (played by Anastacia McCleskey), were just as charismatic and vocally gifted as Sylvester, and Arnold and McCleskey definitely live up to that.

It should be said that none of the cast physically resembles their models (Wash and McCleskey were both so large they took on the name Two Tons O’ Fun). However, this hardly matters when they all live up to the energy and prowess of the originals on stage, which they certainly do.

As with the great majority of musicals, what problems Mighty Real has are in the book (also by Wayne). The book is without a doubt a heartfelt tribute to Sylvester, trying to get at what drove this fabulous artist, and its sincerity and depth of feeling is definitely a help.

But Wayne plays fast and loose with the timeline of Sylvester’s life, most egregiously having the teenage Sylvester watching a medley of “Respect”, “Lady Marmalade” and “Proud Mary” on TV, when all three songs were released many years after Sylvester left his childhood home.

You could make an equally fabulous medley of songs that he realistically might have seen, even by the same artists: Ike & Tina Turner’s “The Gong-Gong Song”, Patti LaBelle’s “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” and “Something’s Got A Hold on Me” by Etta James (who Sylvester actually knew at the time). It bears saying that the medley as is does feel emotionally right, and is highly theatrical. But, still…

Perhaps even more seriously, the book has problems of tone, focusing as it does on the pain that Sylvester went through. Sylvester always wanted to project love and joy though his performances, and would probably have not been thrilled at Wayne taking this angle. Most disconcertingly, Wayne portrays Sylvester’s youthful relationship with an older man in his church as sexual molestation, when Sylvester himself always strenuously insisted that the relationship was consensual.

But again, the book takes up relatively little stage time, and in the final analysis does little to hold back the propulsive vitality of Mighty Real. This makes this fun show something I can easily recommend, just not as wholeheartedly as I might have hoped.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

Review: The Big Knife


This revival is decidedly better than many reviews out there suggest. Perhaps the problem is that Clifford Odets’s The Big Knife, a very good play, is showing up in a season with top-flight revival of what many feel is his best play, Golden Boy.

In late 1940s Hollywood, the Hoff-Federated studio has its most successful star, Charlie Castle, over a barrel since it helped cover up a mistake that could have ended his career. When a woman with insider knowledge threatens to come forward, the studio heads will stop at nothing to protect Charlie’s secret.

I’ll admit that while I like Odets, I’m not his most enthusiastic fan. The Big Knife has everything I like about Odets – penetrating thematic intelligence and engrossing characters – and everything I don’t – an unthinking sense that tragedy equals seriousness, and moral points stated so baldly and melodramatically that they are rendered inescapably corny. In short, The Big Knife is identifiably Odets, full stop.

And this production, directed by Doug Hughes, does a first-rate job of giving us Odets, full stop. Bobby Cannavale is suitably sexy and tortured as Charlie. In the shows strongest performance, Richard Kind plays a manipulative studio exec who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, but works very hard to pretend that he only wants what’s best for his stars. The designers are old Broadway hands, John Lee Beatty on sets and Catherine Zuber on costumes, so it’s hardly surprising that they make us want to live in Charlie’s mid-century modern house and wear his old Hollywood glamour wardrobe.

It really all boils down to how much you enjoy Clifford Odets in general. As I said above, I like but don’t love Odets, so I liked but didn’t love The Big Knife – I certainly can’t fault Hughes and company for getting Odets wrong, as others seem to.

For tickets, click here.

Review: Kinky Boots


This is very much in the mold of musicals like Hairspray and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – both shows in which Kinky Boots‘ director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell had a major hand, it should be mentioned. Like them it’s a splashy, colorful, drag-filled joyride of a show, with a soft-sold message of tolerance that never gets in the way of high-energy production numbers. And like those shows, I predict Kinky Boots will be a big fat hit (if I had to guess, I’d say bigger than Priscilla, not as big as Hairspray).

In Kinky Boots, Charlie Price suddenly inherits his father’s failing shoe factory in Northampton, England. Quite by accident, Charlie meets drag queen Lola, whose broken-down performance heels inspire Charlie to take the family business in a wild new direction.

This musical’s main pursuit is fizzy entertainment, and it more than achieves that goal. It’s much more cohesive than Mitchell’s previous directing foray Legally Blonde, leading me to feel that he has become that rarest of creatures, a director/choreographer who does both equally well. Harvey Fierstein’s book is his usual, delightful model of traditional Broadway with a gimlet eye but a heart of gold. Cyndi Lauper’s music is appropriately emotional and propulsive.

The show’s most major flaw – and it really isn’t that major – is that Lauper’s lyrics can sometimes be a little “on the nose” with things like “where do I fit in,” “is this my destiny,” “what do I really want,” and the like. But she certainly doesn’t do that all the time: her “History of Wrong Guys” is marvellously specific; delivered with wonderful comic timing by Annaleigh Ashford, it’s one of the show’s high points.

Also terrific is Billy Porter as Lola – he’s deliciously over-the-top, at one point turning “sex” into a three-syllable word. And as Simon, the man behind the Lola persona, Porter can also be quite poignantly understated. Stark Sands is also quite winning as factory owner Charlie. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what I and other critics say. Kinky Boots is a breezy crowd pleaser that I for one have no hesitation in recommending.

For tickets, click here.