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Friday, August 21, 2015

Go to Hell: Thrillpeddlers Club Inferno Extends Its Run to Sept. 12

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Cleopatra and Dante - DAVIDALLENSTUDIO.COM
  • Cleopatra and Dante

You’ll never find a better group of sinners to keep you company than the Thrillpeddlers, the keepers of the Cockette flame. So we’re glad their current show, Club Inferno, got extended for another ten performances, through Sept. 12. A rock opera retelling of Dante’s Inferno is a sexy conceit, and at its best, this Inferno is Hedwig-esque, only with more cameos from dead divas.

click to enlarge Xaron, Virgil, and Dante - DAVIDALLENSTUDIO.COM
  • Xaron, Virgil, and Dante
While the main character is of course Dante (Peggy L’Eggs), here a Reno chanteuse who may or may not have died during her act, it’s Xaron (Birdie-Bob Watt) who steals most scenes. Rather than ferrying Dante across the Styx, cranky Xaron (i.e., Charon) escorts her through the underworld via the “Hellevator,” as the stentorian Virgil backs her in song. This Dante is an airhead, and it’s tough to go head-to-head with Xaron’s bordello-madam wig and Frank N. Furter attitude without getting devoured.

Although the heavy guitars sound more high-’80s Van Halen than T-Rex, the songs are solid and briskly paced, with lots to love. Noah Haydon’s impressive feminine timbre and smoky eyes pull off stints as Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette, while Leigh Crow and Amber Sommerfeld’s duet as Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter is as winning as a Bert and Ernie bit by way of the women of SNL’s Delicious Dish. Singing while burning at the stake, Joan of Arc (Amber Sommerfeld again, this time as an arresting ice princess) gets the best number, “Always Say Your Prayers.”

Still, there are a few difficulties. First, the direction is such that it’s sometimes hard to know where your eyes should be. And the sound is completely out of balance, with the band overwhelming many of the actors. It’s also not really clear during the climactic scene why the harmlessly venal Judy Garland is among the betrayers in hell’s bitterly cold, innermost circle. (Zelda Koznofski’s Judy impression is A+, though.)

As with any Thrillpeddlers experience, you have to accept the occasional wig adjustment, characters busting out the Mashed Potato and the Watusi, and the possibility that you might get a lap dance. And I was surprised by how borderline-PG Club Inferno was. Considering the material’s potential for racy blasphemy — and the fact that the last Thrillpeddlers show I saw involved analingus — apart from Dante’s electrocution by pentagram in the first scene, there was little to shatter even the primmest church lady’s monocle. Satan isn’t even mentioned, for instance. But for all that, Inferno is yet another enjoyable Thrillpeddlers romp, an adventure with a band of misfits condemned for all eternity for the sin of being too glam for this world.

Thrillpeddlers Present Club Inferno, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., through Sept. 12, at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St., 415-377-4202.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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