Entertainment :: Theatre

Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma

by Adam Brinklow
Contributor
Sunday Apr 7, 2013
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Thrillpeddlers performs Scrumbly Koldewyn and Pam Tent’s new, full-length restored version of The Cockettes’ 1971 wacky drag musical comedy
Thrillpeddlers performs Scrumbly Koldewyn and Pam Tent’s new, full-length restored version of The Cockettes’ 1971 wacky drag musical comedy  

First, a disclaimer: It’s entirely possible that we blacked out during "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" and just hallucinated what we thought was the rest of the show. The content makes it difficult to distinguish between the actual ending and whatever feverish delusion our brains would have cooked up after being exposed to the first act (perhaps that’s where the "coma" part of the title comes in).

But we mean that in the best way possible. Whichever way that is.

Such is the effect you may experience after Thrillpeddler’s "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" at the Hypnodrome. If this show came with a warning label (speaking of which, does it?) it would include the words "glitter overdose," "full frontal everything," and "gratuitous all of the above." But longtime Thrillpeddler fans, and for that matter, fans of the original Cockettes, will not be so shocked as other, more unsuspecting audiences.

In fact, we’ve decided we’re not going to be shocked either. So what if we just saw composer Scrumbly Koldewyn dressed as Chico Marx dressed as Groucho Marx (try to keep up) bend costar Michael Soldier over a table? Who hasn’t, right? Just another Thursday night.

Lines that make sense in context: "Have the Siamese twins packed the suitcases?"

A reincarnation of the original Cockettes’ 1971 production of the same title, the 2013 "Tinsel Tarts" boasts three founding Cockettes and four songs from the old show but is mostly new material. The program opens with "Sweet Pam" Tent reminiscing about the old troupe’s disastrous run at the Andersen Theater in New York forty plus years ago.

During intermission, another critic leaned across the aisle to share more dirt on New York: "It was just as bad as everyone says it was. The original Cockettes were a bunch of prima donnas, and their sets looked like postage stamps."

Wow, maybe they should write that guy into the act?

So what if we just saw composer Scrumbly Koldewyn dressed as Chico Marx dressed as Groucho Marx (try to keep up) bend costar Michael Soldier over a table? Who hasn’t, right?

Well, this isn’t ’71, and this isn’t New York and these aren’t the old Cockettes, which means we’re catching all kinds of breaks. This one’s a winner. Summarizing the plot is as impossible as it is pointless, but we’ll give it our most earnest effort and hope we don’t pull something:

Depression-era Hollywood diva Madge the Magnificent (played by director Russell Blackwood on opening night but doubled by Raya Light on others) falls out with her director and heads to Broadway in a huff, dragging her put-upon ingenue assistant Prunella (Bonni Suval for the opener, though Miss Sheldra plays the part on certain nights) along. Prunella becomes the toast of the town, leaving Madge to nurse a grudge.

That’s a more or less accurate rundown, but it truly doesn’t do the show justice, mainly because it leaves out the conjoined twins, the aliens, the Valkyrie, the psychic, the devil, the islanders, the oversexed chorus boys, the naked Tarzan guy and the Marx Brothers. Details, details.

Lines that make sense in context: "Thank goodness for my husband’s perforated colon."

Don’t worry about making sense of anything (seriously, don’t, you’ll only hurt yourself), just appreciate Scrumbly’s hot tunes, particularly Prunella’s plucky "On My Own Two Feet" at the bottom of the first Act and the ensemble’s perilously catchy "Hades Lowdown" at the end of the second, and the sequin-encrusted costumes from designer Alice Cunt (look, don’t go getting mad at us, that’s the name on the playbill!).

To be honest, some of the cast’s lyrical performances are a bit garbled, and the Hypnodrome truly doesn’t have the space to take full advantage of the choreography, but what the hell, it’s a party, enjoy yourself already.

Lines that make sense in context: "Don’t stand too close when they throw me in the volcano; they might not know which crater to aim for."

If there’s one standout, besides the male cast member’s prominently displayed endowments (they certainly deserve their own sidebar here), it’s Noah Haydon, who shows up out of nowhere halfway through precisely to stop the show with "Midnight in Manhattan."

It’s a number that makes you forget, for a moment, what show you’re actually watching. Everyone in "Tinsel Tarts" has bravura moments, but Haydon seems to be someone quite memorable. Remember that name; it’s bound to come up again.

"Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" runs through July 27 at the Hypnodrome, 575 Tenth St. in San Francisco. For information or tickets, call 415-248-1900 or visit http://events.sfgate.com/san_francisco_ca/events/show/297979947-tinsel-tarts-in-a-hot-coma#dates_and_times

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