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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thrillpeddlers Production of Vice Palace: Played to Drag Queen Perfection

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 8:45 AM

As hard as it may be to believe, it's difficult to discuss anything drag-related in this town without some sort of feeling of nepotism creeping in. This week's post is far from the exception.

Over the weekend, Vice Palace opened for its run of shows at the Hypnodrome (575 10th St.). It's the latest musical offering from Thrillpeddlers, whose last show, Pearls Over Shanghai, ran for almost two years.

Now I'm sure I could give you some rundown on Thrillpeddlers and Vice Palace, but everything I come up with sounds vaguely similar to their own explanations. Last musical by the Cockettes, etc, etc ... originally ran in 1972, etc, etc ... reminiscent of Poe's Masque of the Red Death, etc, etc ... a vehicle for Divine and Mink Stole ... and on and on. (Now really, isn't that all you need to know to run out and see it?)


The story concerns the main character of Divina, played to drag queen perfection by legendary drag king and crooner Leigh Crow, and this is as faux-queen as she gets. Her performance and styling draw on great screen legends: Gloria Swanson, Liz Taylor, a splash of Liza, and a flourish of Jo Anne Worley. She has a meaty role, and bites into it with all her teeth showing. Her musical numbers are flawless and she's allowed to entice you with her vocal flirtations. Her wig array alone would make any queen jealous.

Back to the plot: Divina's staff is summoned to get her villa ready for all her friends. You see, she plans to save them all from the plague that is rampant outside the villa walls. She will lock them up, entertaining them, while the world falls apart outside. (Well, that's the idea.) As the guests arrive for their protracted stay, her social secretary helps her to distract them by moving them from one thematically decorated room to another, each room holding new entertainment and debauchery to ease their minds and pass the time.


The dance numbers in the show are a spectacle to behold, and the music is wonderfully catchy. The actors are very comfortable in their roles (disregarding any opening weekend jitters) and it would be hard to single out anyone without forgetting someone else -- seriously, there are at least 17 featured performers and all I need is a bunch of bitchy actors on my ass.

What I would rather you understand is that while there are lead actors, the ensemble is just as important, and the featured players get a chance to shine in their roles and show you what they can do. (Did someone mention tap-dancing?)

If anyone deserves special mention, it would be Russell Blackwood. Not because his legs are so amazing in his little tiny outfit, or even because of his musical ode to Caligula, but as the "producing artistic director," he's responsible for making the magic happen.

I realize people will be quick to point out that Scrumbly wrote the music, and that others helped with wigs, make-up, costumes, and sets, but without someone making it all happen, it wouldn't have happened at all.

So without giving too much away, as part of the fun is in the not knowing what will happen next, I will give a few key descriptors to entice you (or repulse you, which would make Divina very happy) They are: music, dance, booze, laughter, flesh, blood, life, love, death, and poo (yes, but seriously, the poo is really funny.)

Please go out and see it. They have worked really hard on it, and you can tell. They deserve a wonderfully attentive audience to wow, and wowed you will be.

5 out of 5 ding-dongs ... totally a door-ble



"Tuck of the Town" is a weekly blog column about the San Francisco drag scene by LeMay. Check back next Tuesday for more.

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Steven LeMay


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