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Saturday 11 April 2015

Review: Night of the Queer

Posted in: Performance
By Jay Bennie - 19th February 2015

Night of the Queer
Auckland Pride Festival 2015
TAPAC Theatre, Feb 18, 19, 20 & 22

Lola La Bomb
From beginning to end last night's opening night of Night of the Queer was boisterous, exhuberant and fun, leavened by a little drama and pathos.

Hostesses Lola La Bomb and Kita Mean slammed the show into high gear with what is becoming their signature song, When You're Good To Mama. Both of these gals - actually only one is really a gal - can belt out a song and their other contributions were high-energy and in your face.

La Bomb, whose general persona is a mix of Scouse docksider and middle finger salute, later dropped all that for one song only and proved her musical versatility in a solo ballad which was at once strong, sweet and tender. Damn, she can sing. And Kita Mean, whose patter can be a little formulaic, showed time and again that for a big gal she can move with choreographed precision and verve.
Bombay Saphire, Indian dancers Mani and Ritz, kept up the top gear sizzle with a ferociously energetic synchronised Bollywood dance number which almost left the full house audience exhausted. You thought Bollywood dance numbers were already camp? These guys raised that bar way higher, and way sexier.

Sir Dame Judy Ginger, one of the most over the top, over the hill and downright cheesiest musical burlesque personas you'll ever see perform didn't miss a beat, belting out Don't Rain On My Parade and, with the accompaniment of lithely glamourous showgirls, Be Our Guest. 100% high camp with a whiff of the sleazy and scatalogical.

In a nod to the late and lesbian Lesley Gore, whose 1960s hit songs were part of the soundtrack for an entire generation, dancer Jessie McCall gave Stand By Your Man an uber-Martha Graham treatment which was strange, gritty and intense.

While most of the acts were in keeping with the fun house theme of the show and its setting, the very young Murdoch Keane almost stole the show with his androgynous monologue taking aim at the bitterness and corrosiveness which are the stock in trade of evangelical Christian leaders when they attack glbti people for their own dubious and self-serving motives. Keane showed exceptional writing skills and a gift for performance which were riveting and which no one in the audience last night will ever forget.

Australia also took a pounding, of the tongue in cheek kind, when Lady Trenyce (aka the show's director Daniel Williams) and Dawn Breaker lampooned squalid TV mother and daughter pair Kath and Kim. Fun and frivolous and so, soooo entertainingly awful.

Suave lounge-ish singer Andrew Laing restored the equalibrium with classy renditions of Kander and Ebb's Life of the Party and Lady Gaga's The Edge of Glory. No tricks, no artifice, just and man on a stool with a microphone singing beautifully. And, it should be noted, backed up by a show band which never skipped a beat through the entire show. Their accompaniments were dynamic, lush and spot on.

Didj Wentworth
After a short break for more wines for most and ciggies for a few the jaw-dropping aerial acrobatics of Didj Wentworth were absolutely compelling. Wentworth has a perfect blend of lithe strength, gymnastic precision and balletic grace - and stripped to the waist he's damned gorgeous too.

In the first of two drag monologues last night Marie Chambers geriatrically creaked her way onto the stage clutching a glass of cheap chardonay and shared her observations on love, life and pretty much everything. This was a warmly humorous mix of old fashioned values, home-spun philosophy and underhand bitchiness delivered with panache.

After a drag number a la Beyonce Stephen Butterworth, such a treat as Lady Bracknell last year in Earnest, louchely and resignedly took us through the fading years of a drag beauty who was, truth to tell, never that beautiful. Riffing on appearances, love and disillusionment, Butterworth deftly treaded a fine line between pathos and humour as a perfect entre to a showstopping I Am What I Am.

Ending the night with flash and dazzle, a drag trio hit the spotlight with Dreamgirls, well-performed to excellent choreography.

Then it was over and we all emerged from the Night Of The Queer at Tapac into an Auckland which seemed, by comparison, flat and ordinary. I suspect if we'd had to emerge instead into, say, Gore we'd have all given up on life altogether.

Jay Bennie - 19th February 2015

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