Review by Sarah Lucie
What do you get when you combine a rock star drag queen and a goofy theater nerd. The short answer: comedic genius. Jerick Hoffer embodies exactly this combination, and his new musical comedy cabaret play “The Vaudevillians” is taking underground theater lovers by storm. You may recognize Hoffer by his alter ego Jinkx Monsoon. That’s right, he’s the newest winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” so, buy your tickets now.
The premise of this zany production lies in the vaudeville duo Ms. Kitty Witless (aka Jinkx Monsoon aka Jerick Hoffer) and Dr. Dan Von Dandy (aka Major Scales aka Richard Andriessen). The coke-riddled ex-prostitute and her musically gifted husband traveled the world with their act in the 1920s, only to be frozen alive somewhere in Antarctica. Lucky for us, global warming has brought them back to life. But they awoke to find all their most popular songs stolen and taken out of context by much less accomplished musicians, so now they are performing them in all their original integrity. Who knew Kitty’s version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was part of the women’s suffragette movement (which is ingeniously compared to the gay rights movement today)?
As any “Drag Race” fan will know, Jinkx Monsoon is a natural born entertainer and quickly developing into one of the most exciting drag stars on the scene. But one of her greatest weapons is her smarts. “The Vaudevillians” is jam-packed with the jokes of a theater nerd, including references to Brecht and Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” and Kitty’s not afraid to call the audience out when a highbrow joke passes over their heads. “Read a book!” she bellows. But the more classic drag jokes have been mastered as well—off beat eye rolls and a few irreverent asides to the audience—and like most true comedians, some of the best moments are unplanned. On the evening I attended, a slight wardrobe malfunction and a sighting of fellow “Drag Race” competitor Alaska’s own show flyer brought down the house.
Another layer of genius is in the song choices themselves. Jinkx makes exaggerated winks to the drag community with the inclusion of the classics by Madonna, Gloria Gaynor, The Supremes, Britney, Lady Gaga, and of course, “Anything Goes.” Other standout music selections include a hilariously manic performance of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and a rather insane version of Kurt Weill’s “Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar.” Not only are the song choices clever, but also there are references upon references in the surprisingly complex musical arrangements. For instance Jinkx’s yodeling abilities, which are featured in “Bad Romance.”
“The Vaudevillians” is a standout comedy cabaret ideal for drag and theater fans alike. Jinkx is gorgeous, glamorous, and hilariously off-kilter as Kitty, while providing abundant layers of intelligence and artistry. Like I said, it’s a winner.
“The Vaudevillians” now extended through October 29 at The Laurie Beechman Theater, 407 West 42nd Street at 9th Ave. 212-352-3101; spincyclenyc.com.