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Jukebox Jackie

This tribute to the multi-talented Jackie Curtis is often enchanting.

Justin Vivian Bond and Cole Escola
in Jukebox Jackie
(© Mat Szwajkos)
Glittering sequins, pink curtains, and handfuls of glitter are in abundance at Jukebox Jackie: Snatches of Jackie Curtis, currently on view at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre. The setting, designed by Scott Pask, is appropriate for this often enchanting revue that pays tribute to the multi-talented Jackie Curtis, who was part of Andy Warhol's famed factory.

Conceived and directed by Scott Wittman, the performance is collaged by Wittman and Tony Zanetta from Curtis' plays, poetry, trip books, journals, and movies and also includes songs sung by, written by, or inspired by Curtis.

Justin Vivian Bond leads the cast, and the performer's own gender ambiguity is fitting for this homage to Curtis, who performed as both man and woman throughout a career which began in the 1960s and ended with a drug overdose in 1985. Bond seemed a little unsure of the lines at times, but nevertheless has a captivating presence and knows how to caress the words of a song like "Half Smoked Cigarette," which has lyrics by Curtis and music by famed songwriter Peter Allen.

However, it's Cole Escola who proves to be the real stand-out in the show. He has a vibrant energy and sense of style that he infuses into everything he does, whether it's the playfully comic rendition of the Mark Gordon-Harry Revel tune, "Cigarettes, Cigars!" or a hilariously delivered monologue as a film director chastising his aging star (played by Bond). He also has great rapport with fellow performer Steel Burkhardt during their duet, "Boys Keep Swinging" by David Bowie and Eno.

For his part, Burkhardt has a rich baritone that he puts to good use in several songs, and his low-key but very funny role as a hustler in a scene taken from the 1971 film Women in Revolt is well played.

Bridgett Everett completes the cast of four, and infuses a manic energy into her performance, particularly in her rendition of Lou Reed's "I'm Waiting for the Man." However, her sense of comic timing and delivery is not as sharp as her castmates, which is particularly evident in a lengthy monologue that's similar in style to the one delivered by Escola earlier, but which falls rather flat.

Similarly, her duet with Bond on "Salome Jones From Avenue B" -- featuring lyrics by Curtis with original music by Jukebox Jackie's music director Lance Horne -- is one of the more lackluster numbers of the evening.

The construction of Wittman and Zanetta's "collage" could also be strengthened, beginning with the rather clichéd monologue (delivered by Bond) that starts the show off on the wrong foot. Scattered throughout, there are tantalizing snippets from Curtis' journal entries that give a glimpse into the evolution of this boy-girl, but not enough to satisfy those who might hope for a more complete biographical treatment of Curtis, or even just to understand better the cultural contributions made by this playwright/poet/performer.

Still, Jukebox Jackie ends on a strong note, with a full-cast rendition of "Celluloid Heroes," written by The Kinks' Ray Davies, and which seems like a fitting farewell gesture to the show's fascinating subject.