Archive for the ‘pearls over shanghai’ Tag

“Halestorm”: a Masquerade for Denise Hale

Lucky me that my 40th B-day landed on the same day as one of the most fabulous San Francisco parties of the year: Halestorm.” It was a masquerade hosted by Ken Fulk at his SOMA interior design/staging studio, in honor of socialite Denise Hale. It also marked the creation of the Denise Hale Fund at the SF SPCA.

The entire cast of my current show “Pearls Over Shanghai” was invited to attend, in costume. (Perhaps Denise’s attendance at our March performance was research?) Other attending luminaries included the Newsoms, Michael Tilson Thomas, Ann Getty, Mark Leno, etc.

It was an unforgettable night, highlit by the yummy “Halestorm” cocktail (vodka, lime juice, thyme sprig+), and the parting gift, a breakfast McMuffin-sort of sandwich, wrapped in a branded wax paper sleeve. Perfection!

Entertainment included jazz singer Paula West, “Pearls…” cast member Connie Champagne, as well as faux queen Fauxnique. Upstairs we showed our moves on the dance floor.

Here are some of the priceless pix from our fun in the “Dressed to Kill” photobooth! As you can see, Chang gets luckier and luckier with each photo…but, by the end looses his seat to Russian femme fatale Petrushka (Veronica Klaus):

See More Changtastic Photos —>

The Fine Art of Plate Portraiture

For my 40th Bday (last saturday) I commissioned some of the finest artistes in the Bay Area to create a distinct portrait of me or other luminary present.

(Translation: A bunch of friends drew a face on a plate.)

Here are the results…from brilliant, to f!@#$d up, to amusing:

Me as Chang, in Thrillpeddlers' Cockettes' "Pearls Over Shanghai." (Won "Most Creative.")

Me as Chang (Back, same artiste; Depicting my backside, revealed through satin boxer trap door!)

Cro-magnon Paul (Won "Most F!@#$d Up!" Created by artist without looking down at plate.)

Fuzzy Paul (Very impressive symbology in the ex-Zillerating linework.)

Continue Viewing Stunning Visual Displays —>

Denise Hale Attends “Pearls Over Shanghai”

March 27, 2010

Since I was playing Scrumbly Koldewyn’s jazzy percussion sidekick “Hung Lo” in this evening’s performance of Pearls Over Shanghai,” I decided to do the pre-show rounds with my camera, and attempt to capture the unique and bustling spirit of my fellow Thrillpeddlers as they put on their costumes and faces in the dressing rooms and other backstage haunts at The Hypnodrome!

Lili Frustrata (Eric Wertz) & Wigs Aglow

I was lingering in the loading dock, hoping for someone in full costume to come or go, so I could capture that amusing juxtaposition (ie: Madame Gin Sling squatting in full headdress, see below). This landing serves as the performers’ backstage passageway, for coming and going for entrances throughout the evening. It was also used as the audience emergency escape route in the notorious flood last December. During the show, the performers open the metal garage-like door, pass down the sidewalk in front of an antique store, and reenter through the main front door or wooden, sliding stage door to make their (memorable) entrance. On a rainy night, with full Cockettes’ makeup, I recall this seeming like quite a challenge the first few weekends I performed. Now it’s old hat, and part of the fun!

Original Cockette Rumi Missabu as Madame Gin Sling

I had just captured a pensive photo of our SM (Jon) taking a momentary break on the loading dock, and was standing on the sidewalk. A very well dressed woman, with sleek, dark hair, pulled-back with a classy band approached me on the sidewalk. She wasn’t the type you normally encounter in these parts. She asked me if or how she was going to be helped up onto the loading dock. I thought she was just jesting with us, in Cockettes’ fashion. I then noticed a large, black limousine waiting on the street, complete with driver and passengers shrouded behind tinted glass. Clearly, this woman preceeded the mystery guests in the limo. “Who were they?,” I wondered.

Lili's Platforms: The envy of ALL!

Perhaps readying myself for the show, and already being a smidge in character, I told her with a degree of sass, and in so many words that part of the fun was helping oneself onto the dock, as many of the characters (ie: Madame Gin Sling, Petrushka, Lili Frustrata, etc.) manage to do it, despite their considerable platform pumps!

When it became clear she mistook this performer’s passageway as the main entry, I shared with her that it was around on the other side of the theatre, and pointed her in that direction.

During the show, as I played my various percussion instruments, I enjoyed observing this woman, as well as another woman with finely coiffed silver hair and stylish yellow and black print blouse, in the comfy Turkish Lounges. Both surely had the finest posture and carriage of anyone I’ve ever seen sit there! Somehow, each smile on their face felt particularly well earned.

When, after the show, from the dressing room we overheard Scrumbly hailed by socialite Denise Hale, it became clear who was in our midst. (I believe the woman I first interacted with was author Diane Dorrans Saeks.) Scrumbly shared that back in the day, when performing at The Palace Theatre, The Cockettes’ also often received socialites and politicians in their audiences, and that they contributed greatly to the overall milieu.

Having “attended Baron Alexis de Rede’s Orientalist Ball in Paris”, and even “slipping semi-incognito into the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Shanghai,” (according to The Style Saloniste link above) Denise certainly knows a thing or two about the real AND fantasy world we conjure up.

“Chang VI” & “Hung Lo”

[UPDATE: SF Chronicle’s Leah Garchik made mention of Hales’ attendance in her 4.1.10 column, as did the BAR.]

What Defines Me?

I just discovered a colleague’s very stylish blog, and was inspired by her post asking What Defines You?,” and her subsequent personal list. As a bit of a Top 10 List addict, I was fast on my way to rounding up my own. I’ve left jcm off the list, as it’s eminently clear that this blog defines me, but that’s just too easy, eh? Here they flow, in random order:

My 7th Birthday Photo


This photo (May ’77, Cincy, OH) conjures up the warm, sentimental feelings of uncomplicated youth, and a loving connection with my family. Although my folks aren’t pictured here, their nurturing presence is all around (and on the other side of the camera). The Winnie the Pooh cake was likely by my special request. I love the retro feel of the old square prints, with rounded corners.

There is a simplicity to my memories of childhood, and of these such moments…no crowded party, or branded birthday theme (seemingly requisite these days), just closeness and joy. I’m so thankful to have the foundation that my upbringing provided me. Funnily enough, CJ has a photo that is almost exactly the same (parallel lives?). Now, just two months from my 40th bday, I suppose I’m a bona fide “adult”!?

“Peristeriona” Ceramic Vase


This vase holds all the memories of CJ’s and my beautiful around-the-world journey together…Hong Kong to Greece to Senegal. It was something I had dreamt of doing for decades, while I racked up frequent flyer miles!

We purchased this in a charming little shop on Sifnos, an authentic, less touristy Greek Island option that we both long to return to one day. The yellow and black colors call to mind the brilliant glow of the sun, and the contrasting shadows, on the traditional white structures and breezy hillsides.

CJ and I have the gift of travelling very well together, and our time on this island was one of our most special yet…divine food, a white-knuckle scooter ride through the hills, and lots of R&R by the sea.

Continue reading post —>

2010 SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards

The SFBATCC nominations were announced today. I’m thrilled to share that the composer/music director and lyricist of my current show were included, as well as many deserving theatre friends and colleagues. Many congrats to all of them, and way to go Ray of Light Theatre on a whopping 11 noms! Below are my highlights:

[UPDATE: Complete list of winnersand see asterisks below!]

Thrillpeddlers: Pearls Over Shanghai
Original Music & Music Direction: Scrumbly Koldewyn
Original Lyrics: Link Martin

Scrumbly (as Gertrude Stein) & Me (as Hung Lo) — Photo by Daniel Nicoletta

Ray of Light Theatre: The Who’s Tommy
Entire Production
Principal Performance: Zachary Franczak* (He was a star!)
Supporting Performance: Cameron Weston
Director: Shane Ray
Music Director: Ben Prince*
Set Design: Angelo Benedetto*
Lighting Design: Dustin Snyder*
Costume Design: Mark Koss*
Choreographer: Ellyn Marie Marsh*

Ray of Light Theatre: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
Ensemble
Music Director:
David Dobrusky

New Conservatory Theatre Center: Dames at Sea
Entire Production*
Supporting Performance:
Leanne Borghesi* (So well deserved, dear friend!)
…and more

Broadway By the Bay: Crazy For You
Director: Brooke Knight
Musical Director: Attilio Tribuzi*
Choreographer: Robin Tribuzi*…and more

Shotgun Players: The Threepenny Opera
Entire Production
Ensemble
…and more

Boxcar Theatre: Rent Boy Ave.: A “Fairy’s” Tale
Musical Director: Michael Mohammed…and more

Michael Phillis: Dolls — NCTC
Solo Performance: Drama

J. Conrad Frank: Katya’s Holiday Spectacular! — NCTC
Solo Performance: Musical*

“Pearls Over Shanghai” Welcomes John Waters

Cast with John Waters and Sebastian (me as Hung Lo, fifth from right).

For our January 8th show, we were graced with the presence of John Waters, as well as Sebastian, director of multiple Cockettes’ movies. The evening had a very special allure, thanks to their presence in the audience. Enjoy these vibrant photo moments from that performance, by fabulous photographer Dan Nicoletta.

Madame Gin Sling (Rumi Missabu) lears.

“Your evil wish is my command, HONEY!”

Lili Frustrata (Eric Tyson Wertz) prepares for her tragi-operatic "Un Bel Di" opening.

Experience a taste of Lili’s fragile suffering here (ala Tebaldi).

A whore (Kegel Kater) gives beautiful face.

I’d pay for two fistfuls of Yuans for that!

3 Occidental Sisters: Delightful, Deluxe, & Delicious (Adeola Role, Liza Bouterage & Miss Sheldra).

They are all “free, white, AND virgin”…at least when they arrive.

Lottie Wu (Kära Andrea Emry) and Hank (Will McMichael) gettin' naughty.

What else would you expect from a “Jaded Hussy”?

Mother Fu (Russell Blackwood) instructs.

Mother Fu sure knows how to “THICKEN the plot”!

In January, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Cockettes’ and their opening of “Pearls…” at The Palace theatre in San Francisco, there is a special “After Glow” floor show, featuring some fabulous drag king action! This image is from a scene from The Cockettes’ Hot Greeks:

The boys gettin' it on, on the front line (Kegel Kater, Nancy French & L. Ron Hubby).

From whores to boys. They sure do clean-up well!

Here are just a few more of the colorful faces at the Hypnodrome.:

Scrumbly Koldewyn, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, Michael Phillis, Addy Role, Jef Valentine, ME as Hung Lo

And, enjoy our latest slideshow by cast member Liza Bouterage, of Nicoletta’s and David Wilson’s photos. (I’m the final Chang image, at 1:19.)

Don’t miss it!!! We run til April 24th!

jcm’s Best of ’09: A Look Back

In the quieter, darker, colder days of January, in addition to looking ahead to what the year will bring, and setting goals, it’s always especially nice to reflect back on the previous year, to recall and relive some of its finest moments. So, it is in that spirit that I share my Top 10 LIVE Performances List for the year.

1. Hair on Broadway (8/2): I’ve certainly said enough about this love-rock musical on my blog in the past 6 months, but for good reason. Attending the acclaimed Broadway production with CJ and some dear friends was deeply moving, and a wonderful way to further launch me into my ACLO production. Although the singing style was more “pop” than I’d like (relative to the original productions), when seeing it live, any stylistic qualms fell away, and the raw honesty of the production swept me away. Steel Burkhardt was a surprisingly good understudy for Will Swenson, as Berger.

2. Heidi Melton Recitals: (2/4) Her Salon at the Rex featured Purcell, Berg, Messiaen, Debussy, and Bolcom; (10/20) Her LIEDER ALIVE! recital second half at the SF Conservatory featured Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. Now in Berlin preparing for her Deutsche Oper Berlin debut, and just off her Met debut in Elektra, she thankfully gave San Francisco two satisfying recitals before her departure. The first was very casual in spirit, much like the salons of old, I imagine…a great artist sidled up to the piano, friends and fans with cocktails in hand, and the artist just telling stories, in words and song. Perfect! The second prooved her Wagnerian chops in the demanding Wesendonck.

3. The Cockettes’ Pearls Over Shanghai (8/15): Straight from The Cockettes’ closet and into The Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome…this irresistable tale is told in glitter, technicolor, pasties, and skin, with raw, campy delivery, and a bawdy flavor. I am happy to now be a part of this production, its first revival since its creation in the late ’60s. John Waters just graced our audience. Don’t miss it!

4. David Wilcox at the Swedish American Hall (3/23): First row, perfect intimacy and completely disarming open-heartedness.

5. Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment at SF Opera (10/22): This Pelly production is an example of a fresh take on an opera that enhances a classic, not apologizes for or covers it up. Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez struck the perfect balance of bel canto purity and knee-slapping hijinx. It was genuinely funny throughout…true laughter spilled forth from the audience, not just the polite opera-laughter one is accustomed to. Meredith Arwady’s turn as The Marquise de Berkenfeld was beyond her years in comedic timing, and positively ebullient.

6. Next to Normal on Broadway (8/2): Like really good therapy…onstage. Vocal chops for days from all 6 performers. Alice Ripley may be crazy, but she’s perfect in this role, and the show lives up to its buzz.

7. Verdi’s Requiem at SF Opera (5/29): This was a moving farewell for Donald Runnicles. Heidi Melton and Stephanie Blythe melded beautifully. Melton stepped in last minute for an ailing Patricia Racette. The performance just crackled with emotion and commitment. And, how special to experience a sacred choral masterwork in our opera house!

8. Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess at SF Opera (6/12): To finally hear this score performed live in its original operatic context was a true thrill, especially after growing so fond of pop and jazz renditions for decades. Laquita Mitchell and Eric Owens lovingly gave 120%.

9. Rossini’s Semiramide at Caramoor (7/31): In this case especially, it’s hard to separate memories of the setting and journey from the performance itself, but the warm summer air, cultivated audience, and Queer Opera Punk friends in tow helped make it very memorable. It starred bel canto masters Angela Meade, Vivica Genaux, Lawrence Brownlee, and Daniel Mobbs. And, how lovely to discover my old choir friend Heather Meyer in the chorale!

10. Paul Taylor Dance Company at YBCA (5/2): This Program C included Arden Court, (Music by William Boyce: Symphonic Excerpts), Private Domain (Music by Iannis Xenakis: Atrees), and Offenbach Overtures (including La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein and Berbe-Bleue Overtures). Unfortunately, this year held few dance performances for me, but, at least included this one! CJ’s high school acquaintance Rob Kleinendorst is a long-time company member. The Offenbach was absolutely hysterical, not the sort of tone I expected from the company. A real fresh surprise! Last time I saw their tour, I was floored by their dramatic, apocalyptic Promethian Fire. Although not intentional, it felt like a 9/11 tribute. Well, this Offenbach couldn’t be more different, and shows their breadth.

Honorable Mentions: South Pacific Tour, GG Theatre, SF; American Idiot, Berkeley Rep (World Premiere, and Broadway-bound); Kylie Minogue concert, Fox Theatre, Oakland, CA; Pink Martini in concert, Davies Symphony Hall, SF; Souvenir, with Judy Kaye and Donald Corren, Geary Theatre, SF; SF Opera Auditions for the General Director (David Gockley) highlights: Michael Sumuel’s “O! Du mein holder Abendstern”, Ryan Belongie’s “Cara Sposa” and Nathaniel Peake’s “Salut demeure chaste et pure” and “Ah! lève-toi soleil!”.

Overrated/Yawners: In the Next Room: The Vibrator Play, Berkeley Rep (now on Broadway?! I fell asleep.); Billy Elliot on Broadway (some great moments and some great dancing do not a great musical make).

The Cockettes’ “Pearls Over Shanghai”!

A Technicolor Discovery


Nearly six months ago, the local Thrillpeddlers Theatre production of The Cockettes’ musical Pearls Over Shanghai entered my theatrical radar. My friend Leanne Borghesi (faux queen Anita Cocktail) was Associate Directing it, and gearing up for a short run as Petrushka, the “White Russian femme fatal”. At the time I knew nothing of The Cockettes nor Thrillpeddlers. The “Pearls…” poster (gotta love the innuendo!), Leanne’s involvement, and the technicolor photos I found online (see teasers below) easily enticed me to want to know and see more!

PEARLS Card Front

My friend David Crocker, a Dresser at the SF Opera, painted some vivid pictures for me of attending the original Cockette’s productions at the Palace theatre in the late 60s. Most potent for me, of course, were his references to operatic excerpts from Madama Butterfly.

Pearls Over Shanghai

Goldie Glitters (Photo © Susie Nightowl)

When I finally attended “Pearls…” with CJ and some friends, I was completely drawn into the spirit of it…bawdy, risque, irreverant, and fabulous! The intimate Hypnodrome theatre (45 seat capacity) aids in the visceral nature of the experience. Two original Cockettes are in this production: Rumi Missabu (the original Madame Gin Sling) and Scrumbly Koldewyn (composer of “Pearls…”, lyricist for Petrushka’s solos, as well as current music director and pianist). I knew this was the next sort of theatrical endeavor I HAD to be a part of. My recent involvement in “Hair”, from the same era, was a natural transition into this. And, recently meeting and working with Walter Harris, brother of Cockettes’ founder Hibiscus, at West Fest allowed it to hit even closer to home.

Hello Chang!


Fast forward a few months. My friend Val (my Frankenfurter in ROLT’s Rocky…) followed Michael Soldier (aka Precious Moments), and TJ Buswell (a Thrillpeddlers’ regular) as Chang. However, his run was ending just before Thanksgiving. The production would need a new Chang come December. Thanks to nods from Val and Leanne, and my passion for the show, I was cast as the new Chang, for the December 4th through 18th performances. This character is the Crime/Gangster Lord of China, and referred to as “Mister Money”, and the “Ziegfield of China”…how fun is that?! I’m looking forward to raising the bar on my makeup skills too, since the performers design and apply their own.

I’m ecstatic to be stepping into this rich tradition, and special production. It’s one part burlesque, one part cabaret, one part drag show, and one part staged musical. It conjures up the spirit of what I imagine shows in pre-war Berlin, or Vaudeville were like…well, sort of.

Come & Experience It


Buy your tickets now! Be prepared to check yourPC at the door. The Thrillpeddlers just received an SF Bay Guardian Goldie Award, so thankfully they are getting some well deserved attention and kudos. Be sure to rent The Cockettes’ documentary, AND enjoy a video preview of the current production (find more in my vodpod widget). Although my run as Chang will have ended, the 40th Anniversary of the original production will be celebrated into the extended January run, with special after-shows!

Pearls Over Shanghai

Madame Gin Sling (Rumi Missabu), and Three White Virgins!

3622475963_96181ee0d1

Madame Gin Sling, Mother Fu (Russell Blackwood), and Chang (Michael Soldier)

Pearls Over Shanghai

Shangri La and Whores

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