Sharon Needles (Photo: Santiago Felipe)
By Matthew Wexler
Sharon Needles recently concluded her annual Halloween Special at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, which has become ground zero for RuPaul alumni and other drag performers looking to migrate from noisy gay bars to the semi-sophisticated digs of a subterranean cabaret space. No shade… plenty of A-Listers have played the venue, including Howard Stern and Joan Rivers’ last performance. In fact, one of Ms. Needles’ best bits is her impersonation of the foul-mouthed comedian.
Grandly entering the theater wearing a black, ruffled evening gown with macabre Victorian inspiration and a ratted out blonde wig that evoked an electrified Dolly Parton circa 1975, Ms. Needles promised to deliver an evening celebrating two of her favorite things: death and fame. Things looked promising with her opening number, the original “Andy Warhol is Dead” and some banter with her accompanist dead Liberace (Michael Greko) about a bad reaction to oregano oil.
The rest of the evening felt like a pendulum slowly swinging back and forth before the strike of midnight and the anticipated arrival of otherworldly spirits. A cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” couldn’t compare to the Prince or Sinéad O’Connor versions, as Ms. Needles confessed that her usual five-day rehearsal schedule had been cut down to two (“More like one and a half,” she clarified, “I was two-and-a-half hours late.”) Those paying $45 for VIP seats (plus an additional $20 food/drink minimum) didn’t seem to mind. The enthusiast crowd was with her the entire time, especially as she warmed up and delivered another original, “Dead Dandelion.”
Costume changes came and went, including a black pageboy wig and sparkly cocktail dress with exaggerated shoulders, followed by Halloween-inspired leotard, fishnets, and teased hair that echoed a litter of Pomeranians.
During one of these changes, Mr. Greko took to the mic for a Freddy Mercury tribute and nearly shattered every glass in the bar with his powerhouse delivery — a far cry from Ms. Needles’ relatively thin vocal performance that felt restricted. This was apparent in her stabs at both Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Ms. Needles shined, though, in her spot-on impersonation of Joan Rivers and buzzy audience interaction. She appeared to be genuinely appreciative of the crowd, acknowledging the power of the #MeToo movement, the number of women in attendance, and the evolution of drag into a legitimate, commercially viable art form.
I have no doubt that Aaron Coady, the real-life performer behind the drag diva, has the goods to deliver a top-notch show, but winging it can only go so far as the stakes get higher and more drag dreamers enter the fold. Beware — we wouldn’t want to see Ms. Needles become a ghost from the past.
Coming Up at The Laurie Beechman Theatre:
Twizted Sisterz is a collective of New York’s best drag performers who collaborate on the creation and production of new spectacle-driven entertainment. They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. Now the drag queens from the long-running hit Distorted Diznee turn their twisted imaginations on Halloween. This horror-driven 70-minute spooktacular features high-energy dance numbers, comedy, dazzling costumes and lip-synching ladies.
Friday, October 26, 2018
Ginger Minj’s Thanksgiving Leftovers
What is the best part of Thanksgiving? The leftovers, of course! In the spirit of the season, RuPaul’s Drag Race favorite Ginger Ming has graciously offered to share her leftovers with us as we officially kick off the holidays. Join Ginger for a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of music and fun.
November 23-25, 2018