Photography by Hunter Canning
I think it is safe to assume that we all love Mama Ru, but sometimes the winners of RuPaul's Drag Race are forgettable at best. Others are instant legends. The latter is definitely true for Jinkx Monsoon. She had us at "water off a duck's back," and we haven't been able to get enough of her ever since. Now she's back with her dapper partner-in-crime, Major Scales, in the follow-up to 2013's smash hit The Vaudevillians, titled The Vaudevillians: Bringing Up Baby.
I won't hold it against Jinkx that I never saw The Vaudevillians. In 2013 I was living in Houston, Texas, and her visits to that city simply didn't include sit-downs with that particular show. That's beside the point, but what really matters is that you can enjoy The Vaudevillians: Bringing Up Baby without having seen its predecessor. All you need to know is made clear by the voice over announcement at the top of the show.
Dr. Dan Von Dandy (Richard Andriessen's Major Scales) and his wife, Kitty Witless (Jerick Hoffer's Jinkx Monsoon), were a popular music act in the 1920s. In a freak accident, the duo was frozen alive. In the intervening years, today's pop icons stole their entire music catalogue. Not defeated by the theft, the recently thawed couple is ready to take the world by storm doing what they do best, singing and dancing rags for paying audiences. There's just one catch this time around: Kitty Witless is due to deliver at any moment. Even pregnant, the show must go on.
The humor for Bringing Up Baby is boundless. It charms the audience with idiosyncratic idioms from the bygone era of speakeasies and flappers that lend themselves perfectly to hysterical double entendres, bawdy puns, and witty sexual innuendos. Often serving at least a laugh a minute, the banter between Dr. Dan and Kitty keeps the audience rolling because of Kitty's unyieldingly dry, bitter, and biting persona. Kitty may be witless in more ways than one, but she makes up for it with bitchy snark.
Yet, the most impressive aspect of the show is Jerick Hoffer's vocal range. Flipping in and out of falsetto, belting with ease, and oscillating between a pristinely controlled and delivered operatic vibrato and pop-style warbling, Hoffer sings in the soprano, alto, and tenor ranges with a few slips into the baritone register. Always in character, his exuberant performances of the show's well-known pop hits rearranged as rags, tangos, and speakeasy-esque torch songs are simultaneously funny, fun, and beguiling. Standouts include vibrant renditions of "Papa Don't Preach" (Brian Elliot, Madonna), "Heart of Glass" (Debbie Harry, Chris Stein), "I Knew You Were Trouble" (Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Shellback), and "I Love It" (Charlotte Aitchison, Patrik Berger, Linus Eklow).
Side-splitting, frenzied, and franticly entertaining from beginning to end, Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales' The Vaudevillians: Bringing Up Baby is delightfully audacious. The gaudily ostentatious gem is a true Off-Off-Broadway treasure that simply proves it is still "Monsoon Season."
The Vaudevillians: Bringing Up Baby runs through June 28, 2015 at New York City's The Laurie Beechman Theater (inside West Bank Cafe, 407 W. 42nd St.). Please note that the original production of 2013's The Vaudevillians will run in rep on Thursdays through June 25. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.SpinCycleNYC.com.