For her first long cabaret run in two years, Christine Ebersole returns to 54 Below with a glorious new show. What really distinguishes this show from her previous cabaret turns (they’ve all been glorious) is the touch of Musical Director Bette Sussman, who brings with her a big, rock-ish band and a jazz-pop polish reminiscent of arranger William S. Fischer’s work on the classic Bette Midler album The Divine Miss M (Sussman has collaborated with Midler herself on more than one occasion). In any event, and in case you didn’t know, I am here to tell you that Christine Ebersole is faaaaaabulous!
A little bit Lypsinka, a little bit Mummenchanz – certainly not what I expected when going to see a cabaret act from Drag Race alum BenDeLaCreme. Oh sure, there was plenty of other stuff in line with other drag cabarets I’ve seen: goofy song parodies, wisecracking comedy and so forth. But DeLa has something more sophisticated to offer, in a show with a seductive strangeness that creeps up on you.
Nellie McKay is a highly individual talent, a supreme stylist, with wild, crazy creativity and substantial musical intelligence to match her razor-like interpretive ability. McKay has become something of a specialist in biographical cabarets – experimental performance art meets high society cabaret – and has put together another such special show about Billy Tipton, a jazz pianist who was discovered to have been a woman after his death.
I was Team Bianca before the season even started, but Miss Courtney Act was one of the more charming discoveries in the latest season of Drag Race. In her cabaret act Boys Like Me, Act reaffirms the perception that she is a real pro of a performer, a real pleasure to spend some time with, even if she’s not an innovator like Jinkx Monsoon, or a crazed genius like Bianca del Rio.
Not knowing the history of the musical comedy Pageant, when I first heard about it I thought it was about drag pageants, like the 2008 documentary of the same name. But no, Pageant was a Off-Broadway hit in the early 1990s, essentially an ordinary, kinda low-rent beauty pageant in which the female contestants are all played by men. Judging by the current revival, the show is a charming, featherweight bit of fun, without much serious to say about gender: an irreverent but essentially innocent tribute to kitschy Americana. Which is just fine as far as I’m concerned.