June 18, 2009
THRILPEDDLERS BRING BACK THE 70'S FUN
(to the right: Rumi Missabu/James Toczyl
in Pearls Over Shanghai)
LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS
June 18, 2009
THRILLPEDDLERS BRING BACK THE 70’S FUN
PEARLS OVER SHANGHAI IS MORE THAN FLAMBOYANT – IT’S A PSYCHEDELIC TRIP, SMOKE AND ALL
“PEARLS’ was originally produced as a Nocturnal Dream Show that performed at the old Palace Theatre in Chinatown. It turns out that it brought fame and probably not fortune to the “Cockettes” who made it big – but like all groups, they fizzled out and the magic never took to the stage again. Until now that is, with The Thrillpeddlers re-invention of “Pearls” at the Hippnodrome Theater on 10th Street in SF. How do they walk in them? I’m talking about the highest stilettos that I have ever seen. Towering is the word – and that word can also be used for the performances. This is the most perfect gender-bender show that I have ever seen. The makeup is unbelievable, and the music selections by Scrumbly Goldwyn are just terrific. This musical play is based loosely on John Colton’s 1926 Broadway play, The Shanghai Gesture and Josef von Sternberg’s 1941 film adaptation that starred Marlene Dietrich. Of course, we won’t mention Marlene and gender Bender in the same sentence.
This decadent tale is of white slavery and opium dens and sex for sale at every corner. Gee, sounds like San Francisco to me. Rumi Missabu (an original Cockette) plays the Evil Madame Gin Sling. For this production, original Cockettes Tahara and Billy Bowers have lent their great talents to resident costume mistress Kara Emry. And what imagination they have created. The designs are super fab. There are glitzy things everywhere, its 1930’s splendor. Living inside of “Tiffany’s” couldn’t be anymore campy.
The blurred sexual lines will keep you interested and intrigued, along with joy, fun and nostalgia. Hippie era never looked so good. It takes you back to the dawn of the 70’s and the Haight. Sure, it didn’t last, but thanks to the Thrillpeddlers they have brought it all back in living Technicolor. It’s all here on the stage…Tranny Floozies and Hippies on acid.
The Cockettes paved the way for John Waters and his flock of gender films. Then of course there was “The Rocky Horror Show.” Here’s the deal: If you want to relive the freewheeling spirit of the colorful era – it’s all there, on the stage, brought to you by the Thrillpeddlers. The Cockettes won many, many awards and recognition. In San Francisco the Bay Area Critics Circle gave them one of the highest awards.
They had fans everywhere, including Alice Cooper, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin and Truman Capote. Of course, they were part of that glossy time. Isn’t time for this show to become a Broadway musical? I think so. If you really want to be entertained in a huge wide screen sort of way – then you sure as hell won’t want to miss this rare glimpse of one of the most exciting times in history. Besides – sexual anarchy becomes you. And to make you more comfortable, there are wonderfully cushy sofas for you to lie down on. Just like an Opium den.
There is a cast of thousands in the musical play so I can’t fit them all in, even though everyone deserves the highest of praises. The wonderful stage direction is by Russell Blackwood (who is in the play). The Musical Director and pianist is Richard “Scrumbly’ Koldewyn who also is one of the cast. These girls alternate: Connie Champagne, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy and Leanne Borghesi, all take on the role of Petrushka (the role was first created by disco diva Sylvester) in the original productions.
GUARANTEED! IT WILL BLOW YOUR SOCKS OFF! – Or ‘blow’ something! “It’s the Year’s Most Ambitious and Biggest Fantasy!”
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-
(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)
More reviews: www.beyondchron.org