Archive for the ‘pearls over shanghai’ Tag
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):
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:
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.
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.
“Your evil wish is my command, HONEY!”
Experience a taste of Lili’s fragile suffering here (ala Tebaldi).
I’d pay for two fistfuls of Yuans for that!
They are all “free, white, AND virgin”…at least when they arrive.
What else would you expect from a “Jaded Hussy”?
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”:
From whores to boys. They sure do clean-up well!
Here are just a few more of the colorful faces at the Hypnodrome.:
Don’t miss it!!! We run til April 24th!
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!
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).
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!
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”.
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.
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 your “PC” 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!