Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2014’

Kinsey Sicks’ drag-queen parody is funny, harmonious

 Woody’s Rating: ★★★★½

The Kinsey Sicks has been entertaining for 20 years. In front are the quartet’s co-founders, Ben Schatz (left) and Irwin Keller; standing are Spencer Brown (left) and Jeff Manabat.

It was a one-night stand.

But I’ll long remember it as a theatrical ménage à quatre, which, clearly, is one person better than a ménage à trois.

The harmonious homecoming of the Kinsey Sicks took place at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. And, as might have been prophesied, the quartet’s social satire was both outrageous and outrageously funny.

And as raunchy as ever.

I hadn’t seen the drag queen tour de farce in more than a decade. My loss.

This go-round, a 20th anniversary bash by “America’s favorite ‘dragapella’ beautyshop quartet,” spoofed — mainly through original lyrics and music — a potty-load of 21st century TV reality series.

The foursome labels its musical comedy “America’s Next Top Bachelor Housewife Celebrity Hoarder Makeover Star Gone Wild!”

I doubt if I’d have laughed harder even if I’d ever seen any of the original reality shows they were lampooning (or if I’d known beforehand that the show was an outgrowth of their having once been contestants on “America’s Got Talent”).

The Kinseys (who wear male attire when not on stage) were, as always, downright irreverent.

No body parts were safe from their wit.

And, naturally, there were endless overt and innuendo references to gay sex, gay sex and, in case you missed it, gay sex.

The Kinsey Sicks website provides a quick rundown of the current cast — “The Boys Behind the Girls.” Its cheeky tone is in keeping with the act, but there are serious undertones.

Ben Schatz (“Rachel“) co-founded the Kinsey Sicks with Irwin Keller and is its chief lyricist. A Harvard Law grad, he started the first national AIDS legal program and was on President Clinton’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Keller (“Winnie”), who’s responsible for many of the group’s musical arrangements, is a linguist and lawyer who authored Chicago’s gay rights ordinance. He also acts as lay rabbi of a small Cotati synagogue.

Jeff Manabat (“Trixie”) joined the Kinseys in 2004, and Spencer Brown (“Trampolina”) jumped on the vocalwagon in 2008.

The homecoming show also briefly featured Maurice Kelly, who’d originated the Trixie role. She sizzled while doing offering an updated rendition of “Fever” in a white gown that recalled Glinda the Good witch from “Wicked.”

The cavernous Castro has 1,400 seats, and a quick glance showed virtually none was empty. I, in fact, got there somewhat late and was relegated to the last row of the balcony, from which I could hear almost every barbed phrase, many of which (including countless f-bombs) can’t be reprinted by family newspapers or websites.

If lyrics became too dense or too fast to discern, however, I simply tuned into a cappella excellence that the Kinseys’ vocal instruments command.

The throng appeared to be 99.4 percent gay male, with a smattering of lesbians. A handful of others, including me, represented the straight population. If there were any LGBT-bashers, they stayed in hiding.

Parents wisely kept their tiny kids at home.

Pre-show slides on a big screen set the mood. They skipped through the Kinseys’ history, mostly in color but occasionally dating back the full 20 years to black-and-white stills.

The concert-burlesque also included tidbits from old but still vibrant concoctions.

For instance, the two-Jew, two-Gentile, big-haired, big-harmonied quartet offered excerpts from “Oy Vey in a Manger,” which they just presented on the Sonoma State University campus, proving that the Kinseys and their fans prefer naughty over nice.

Highlights of “America’s Next Top…” were retooled versions of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “Santa Baby,” as well as aggressive originals that asked the question, “Why the F—k Aren’t We Famous?”

The encores were superb.

One gospel-based piece truly jumped, and the poignant closing tribute to former Kinsey performer Jerry Friedman (and, presumably, AIDs casualties) brought the entire crowd, many of whom had been only one or two degrees of separation removed, to its feet.

Throughout the show, pop and cultural references were rife. Inserted, for instance, were often-snarky mentions of Rachel Maddow, Frida Kahlo, Simon Cowell, Susan Boyle, Dick Cheney and George Clooney.

Throwaway lines rocketed in every direction.

Like an old Henny Youngman routine, if you didn’t laugh at this gag, that phrase, or any specific alliteration or allusion, there’d be another along in a second.

Some were groaners.

Such as: “Van Gogh didn’t have an ear for music.”

After the two-hour show, which featured smatterings of audience participation, came a bonus: Deborah Doyle, president of the California Library Association, moderated a question-and-answer verbal roundelay featuring Kinsey input, serious and not.

The uproarious but thoughtful quartet has appeared in Las Vegas, off-Broadway and in 42 states — and they’ve put out two DVDs and eight CDs.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that in keeping with their clever, dense-and-dirty delivery, the four drag queens would probably rejoice in my indicating that they’d put out at all.

A 20-year retrospective about the Kinsey Sicks will be displayed at the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., third floor, from Feb. 8 through July 10. For information on upcoming appearances of the group, check out www.kinseysicks.com or call (415) 326-4679.

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