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Dragapella! Starring the Kinsey Sicks
(Photo: Sven Wiederholt)
Forget that the four guys on stage are in Technicolor drag. Forget also that much of the songs sung by these four drag queens have clever, satiric lyrics. Finally, forget that there's no band to back them up--not even a piano. The important thing is that, singing unaccompanied, the four guys in question create a funny and fabulous show titled Dragapella! Starring the Kinsey Sicks.

Truth to tell, The Kinsey Sicks is hardly a catchy name for a group. They refer to themselves, however, as a "beauty shop quartet." Now, that we like. And so will you when you settle in at Upstairs at 54, the gaudy (and therefore appropriately) appointed club above Studio 54 where this unique revue is playing. The ever-so-slight structure of the captivating show involves the three veteran performers giving advice to their young protégé, who hopes to become a member of the group. Everyone joins in the fun, including the paying customers; though Dragapella! has a little too much audience participation for our taste, there's nothing mean or humiliating in the things that the ticket buyers are asked to do. (If you're a good looking, WASP-y, blond male, be aware that you might be plucked from the audience to serve as a "goy toy" There are worse things...but not in this show!)

In their opening number, the Sicks proudly proclaim that they put "the 'ho' in hosiery." More like "the ho, ho, ho," we'd say; that's how heartily you're going to laugh at their antics. Later, Trampolina (the novitiate of this punnery) comically confuses "cheeses" with "Jesus." Throughout the show, the performers send up pop culture with the same kind of piercing wit as is employed by Forbidden Broadway in spoofing theater. Their comedy is broad (no pun intended) but sometimes very pointed; for instance, there's a number satirizing the lack of state sanctioned gay marriages, set to the tune of "Going to The Chapel." Then the guys/gals surprise you with an almost "straight" Yiddish number about suffering, called "Buy My Cigarettes." And then they turn around and change the lyrics to the pop tune "A-B-C," singing "It's as easy as AZT." This up-tempo yet biting and bitter take on the fight against AIDS is one of the group's cleverest parodies.

Another hilarious number flips the Bobby McFerrin tune "Don't Worry, Be Happy" into "Don't Be Happy, Worry." The fact is that Dragapella! is filled with such highlights. Ben Schatz is a gifted comic writer--so gifted that his occasional lapses into excessive vulgarity seem unworthy of him. Happily, the wit outweighs the low comedy. Schatz also doubles as Rachel, a fierce Jewish woman who is the bawdiest of the foursome but who has a close second in the blonde vixen Trixie (Maurice Kelly). Winnie (Irwin Keller) is the apparently prissy member of the group, while the previously mentioned Trampolina (Chris Dilley) pretends--very effectively--to be a ditz.

Each of the performers has his/her own voice. They sing very well in solo moments, but together they sound exceptionally good; their harmonies are often as pretty as the lyrics are funny. At one point, they refer to themselves as "a girl group made of boys," but they really are a clown troupe whose members happen to in drag. While Dragapella! was obviously fashioned with a gay audience in mind, like Whoop-Dee-Doo! and other ostensibly gay shows, it has a great deal of crossover appeal.

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