This self-described "beauty shop quartet" is made up of four men in drag: co-founders Ben Schatz as Rachel and Irwin Keller as Winnie, with more recent additions Jeff Manabat as Trixie and Charles Romaine as Trampolina. As they did in their terrific 2001 show, Dragapella, the group impresses with gorgeous a cappella harmonies and hilarious lyrics. However, their patter in between songs needs some work.
Schatz is responsible for the over-the-top parodies that turn Christmas standards such as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" into "God Bless Ye Femmy Lesbians" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" into "Jews Better Watch Out." Several numbers push the envelope when it comes to being potentially offensive. A parody of "Away in a Manger" begins with "'A lay in a manger will be hot,' he said / So I go with Jesus and give him sweet head." (Just to clarify, they are not actually talking about the baby Jesus in this one.)
What makes the parodies so effective is that Schatz has stayed true to the original rhyme schemes and kept as much of the original lyrics as possible, while completely twisting the context. Thus, "Silent Night" becomes a paean to cannibalism, "Soylent Night," that has the group sweetly intoning, "ground up virgin with mother and child / Try the infant, so tender and mild."
Each performer gets a chance to take on lead vocals, with Trixie's soaring falsetto rendition of "Jenny Craig Feel My Sorrow" (a parody of Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" from Gianni Schichi) as one of the highlights. But the group really shines when they unite their voices in sublime harmony. Oy Vey in a Manger is less political than some of the quartet's other shows. However, the Kinsey Sicks do include as their encore, the overtly political "We Arm the World" (to the tune of "We Are the World").
Unfortunately, the revue's framing device is bogged down by awkward dialogue and jokes that don't land. Supposedly, the four are getting ready for a holiday party, held in the same manger in which Jesus Christ was born. As they wait for guests to show, they entertain each other with holiday stories, which are often just lame introductions to their songs. Romaine's Trampolina is particularly hard to watch in these sequences, as his comic timing is abysmal. However, once he starts singing he becomes more effective.
Be forewarned that this is also a show that includes audience participation. It's all in good fun, and in any case, it's really hard to say no to a pushy drag queen when she's right up in your face.
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