Friday, May 29, 2009

Virtual Variety Part 3

Hey Folks. First of all, thanks for indulging my previous post ranting about Bill Maher and opportunities missed in the spiritualist / atheist dialogue. (Good clean petty bourgeois fun but probably not what most of you are reading this blog for. So without further ado...)

The Wet Spots toured in Australia for the month of March 2009. It was our second trip down there and our second performance at the Sydney Opera House for their Mardi Gras programming. To me, it was almost more of an honour to be asked back a second time. It's sort of like sex - once could have been a drunken mistake on their part. Twice implies a certain degree of premeditated intention.

And what a bill they had on for the Mardi Gras this time: Alan Cumming! Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls)! Meow Meow! Justin Bond! Best of all, they had several late night cabarets in which this stellar cast would perform impromptu duets and goof off. It reminds me of the stories of the original Ocean's Eleven starring Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior etc. After a long day of filming, the rat pack would hold court in some Vegas casino lounge and fuck around - telling stories and doing songs and comedy. It is a great regret that our tour schedule did not allow us to arrive in town in time for these shows.

As it happened, we got to perform two nights following Justin Bond's "Close to You" show. For those of you unfamiliar with Justin, he came to fame over the last decade as Kiki of the cabaret duo Kiki and Herb. (Others will know him as the MC in Shortbus.) This act completely re-wrote the rules of what a drag performance could be, stormed Carnegie Hall and toured to critical acclaim worldwide. And then they decided to pack it in. Kiki was a savagely quick-witted, nihilistic drag character and Justin was wearying of embodying those emotions so often. So he began to perform as himself, trading in the boozy, agonizingly funny fictions of Kiki's eternal descent for equally poignant true stories from his glamorous life amongst the gliteratti and his pagan romps amongst the Radical Faeries. His genius as a musical parodist is undeniable, so his choice to focus on earnest interpretations of pop classics and original material is particularly bold. It is a roll of the dice, and it has come up double sixes, as far as I'm concerned. His transformation is an inspiration to any creative who is feeling the need to stretch and grow beyond their comfort zone. Here he is at Joe's Pub in New York City performing Marat / Sade.

In Australia, Justin performed his "Close to You" show, which features him singing every song from the classic Carpenter's album, accompanied by a ten-piece live band. When I walked into their rehearsal, I saw that the pianist was executing a flawless performance with his left hand, while simeltaneously jotting notes for the musicians with his right. And so I was introduced to Lance Horne - Emmy Award-winning musical genius and tireless cabaret booster. Lance acts as musical director for Justin Bond, Meow Meow, Alan Cumming and a host of others - grounding their oft-eccentric visions with sound technique and theory. I tried to find a Youtube video of him performing on his own, but almost every clip showed him making some other performer look astounding. Here he is singing at Joe's Pub - his second home in NYC. (And don't even get me started on his first home...)

Our shows were a delight to perform, and on our closing night we recorded a brief interview with Australian radio. It is interspersed here with clips of audience reactions...

From Sydney, we flew on to Adelaide for the 2009 Fringe Festival. The Adelaide Fringe is second only to Edinburgh in terms of size and prestige, and we were fortunate enough to perform in a truly glorious venue - the fabulous Parel van Vuren Spiegeltent. Speigeltents are antique, portable performance venues that used to tour with circuses around the turn of the last century. They have cloth roofs, ornate carved wooden frames, and countless stained glass and mirror panes throughout their structure.

Our dressing room - behind it - was a rather more prosaic porta-cabin trailer. But we got to share the trailer with a mad, hilarious gang of performers from a beautiful cabaret show called A Company of Strangers. Here's a little clip hyping their event:

The MC of their night was a gruff, eccentric, songwriter and dancer named Martin Martini. Here he is performing at the Soho Theater in London:

The sensational Meow Meow joined their cast for several nights. Here she is doing her charming deconstruction of diva-hood...

In contrast, the mournful, mysterious Lady Carol sang Radiohead's Creep and Queen's The Show Must Go On. I love a woman in a hooded maroon velvet cape who plays ukulele. I mean, who doesn't. Right? Here she is doing Kate Bush. (Not like that. But that would be hot.)

One of my particular favourites was Gateau Chocolat - an enormous operatic talent from London UK. His warmth and energy illuminated the whole show, and his outrageous costumes were a visual delight. He's the fellow in the green unitard from the overview clip above. He is currently performing with those superfriends of Variety - La Clique . Here he is in a (frankly quite bizarre) little art film clip:

Another treat was the irrepressible Paul Capsis - an Australian legend. Fresh out of playing Riff Raff in a Rocky Horror revival, Paul delivered a stunning array of larger-than-life vocal interpretations, even out-Janis-ing Janis Joplin. And he split his trousers like PJ Proby. So Cass mended them. Here's a short clip that doesn't really do justice to his vocal chops, but gives a good idea of his stage presence.

Finally, we had the lovely Sveta and her dancing Russian Bears. Here she is doing her own demented diva take. She rounded out their show beautifully.

Sveta Dobranoch

This was the show we got to listen to night after night as we prepared for our own slot immediately following them. It never once got boring, and we snuck in many times to watch these unique talents from the wings. Theirs was a consistently sold-out show, and most deservedly so. But we still won the award for Best Cabaret, betches. Just saying... ;-)


ariadne said...

Hi Cass and John,
I am SUPER bummed to have missed "By the Seat of Our Panties" I notice also that the links to subscribing to your newsletter aren't currently working on the Wet Spots' website, is there another link I can use to subscribe? I live in Washington state, and I have a new passport I'm just itching to use.

I'm hoping to catch one of your shows some time, so I can be a properly smitten fangirl.

Where will you be playing in the next few months?


wetspots said...

Ariadne, we are re-mounting "By The Seat Of Our Panties" under the name "SHINE - A Burlesque Musical" this August 12-23. Hope you can make it up for that!