Archive for the ‘thrillpeddlers’ Tag

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.]

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 winners...and 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!

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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