Another weekend in Seattle, another opportunity to see the infamous Mama Tits at the Narwhal and partake in some fabulous drag shenanigans! Many of you probably remember my review of the Mimosa’s With Mama drag brunch featuring a 30-minute Little Shop of Horrors mini-musical from last year’s jaunt to the Emerald City (if you DON’T rememeber that review, refresh yo’self HERE). The event is now called Mimosas Cabaret (more on that later), but still features a lineup of fantastic performers who show off their amazing talents through lip syncing, live singing, and theatrical performance.
Not much has changed with the atmosphere – everything is still as brightly colored and circus-y as ever – but the show itself has definitely upped the ante on performance. The cast included the same 5 lovelies from last year – Mama Tits, Tipsy Rose Lee, Isabella Extynn, Ruby Bouche, and Sparkle Leigh – and added an additional diva, Abbey Roads. Abbey is another dame in the theatrical tradition, serving up some Sally Bowles realness with a bawdy “Don’t Tell Mama.” Everyone in the cast sang at least one sing live; frankly, I’m conflicted by this. One the one hand, it really does speak to the history of cabaret to have a show with variety and if the singer is good (which these divas are) then it adds to the depth on performance. On the other hand, you can call me old-fashioned if you like but when I go to a drag show I don’t mind seeing traditional drag performance with lip syncing. I’m interested in how well they do the sync, what the costumes look like, what sort of performance they’re bringing. I don’t think a live voice is automatically better, and after a while it starts to feel repetitive if everyone in the cast is doing it. Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race keep pushing this idea that it’s not OK for drag performers to be traditional drag performers, but I heartily disagree. Find ways to make it fresh and fun and you’re putting on a show, whether the voice is yours or not.
Let’s meet the fabulous cast, starting with Mama Tits:
Mama is the leader of this pack, but she is more than comfortable sharing the spotlight with her talented troupe. She did a couple of bawdy old blues songs that were part of the research that went into building a new stage show called “Sweet Tooth” that she’s bringing to Stages in Puerto Vallarta for the next few months (hence the title change from Mimosa’s with Mama to Mimosas Cabaret). She also hosted the early part of the show and the mid-show games that were sponsored by Pop Cap Games, Champion Party Supply, and more. She was naughty and raucous, but wasn’t afraid to use her platform to speak seriously about current events, specifically the upcoming election. She reminded the assembled audience that a vote for a 3rd party candidate or not voting at all is a default vote for Trump – let’s hope all of these wacky millennials are listening to their elders (including Bernie Sanders, whom they claimed as their savior and who has heartily endorsed Clinton because he understands how politics actually work).
Tipsy Rose Lee
In addition to being a good vocalist and an engaging Broadway-style performer, Tipsy is also the show’s choreographer and leads the cast through some great moves – the quality here is just as good as many stage musicals I’ve seen. She’s super welcoming and told me more about the show afterwards while we took a couple of poorly-lit selfies (I swear someday I will figure out this damn camera!).
Isabella’s schtick is sexy with a little bit of edge, and she’s definitely the poppiest queen of the bunch. She sang a live rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” that was fun and worked the crowd in her blue and purple princess-mini.
Sparkle Leigh is part drag queen, part clown, and all fun! The video above shows the opening of her performance to Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited” as movie villain Mrs. Bates. I even got to be a part of the act – she pulled me up on stage and had me pretend to shower while she hid behind the white stage curtain; at the end of the number, not surprisingly, she popped out to the shrieking violins of the Psycho score and proceeded to murder me with a large plastic butcher knife. It was definitely the most memorable performance for me!
Ruby is a great combo performer, combining a strong comedy vibe with a theatrical touch, and just enough of a “pretty girl” aesthetic to allow her to do a range of performances from pop to Broadway to classic eleganza. Her “Call Me Maybe” mix included clips from the John Waters’ classic Serial Mom. I think I heard the mix when I was at last year’s show, but the outfit and performance were totally different, reminding all you ladies out there that just because you recycle a song doesn’t mean you have to do it the same old way you’ve always done it.
Abbey was the only new addition to the cast, and she’s a great mix of comedy and theatre – her Sally Bowles burlesque was cheeky (hehe) and fun with simple costuming and strong choreography. She is also the understudy for the mini-musical and covers any of the roles in the show if needed – now that’s muthaeffin’ dedication!
The show had the typical structure I remember from my previous visit: a group number opens the show, individual performances by the cast, and then a series of games at the mid-point to give the audience a chance to take home some fun goodies. The range of prizes and the value (audience memebers walked away with several hundred dollars worth of goodies including a man’s watch, tickets to future shows, games, and more) speak to how highly regarded the show is in the Seattle area. Finally it was time to raise the curtain on the mini-musical, Chicago.
Ruby Bouche starred as Roxy Hart with Tipsy Rose Lee playing conniving sexpot Velma Kelly. Bouche also provided the lighting design which featured bold washes of primary colors – especially red. Matron Mama Morton was of course played by Mama Tits, who chose to sing the signature “When You’re Good To Mama.” She handled the song well, but with the first act being very heavy in live performances I would have preferred she use the Queen Latifah track and bring in some additional theatricality. Different strokes, I guess. Isabella Extynn busted out of her sexy persona and played Mary Sunshine, the gullible reporter who is easily manipulated by the scheming Roxy and her silver-tongued attorney Billy Flynn, played to genderfuck perfection by Sparkle Leigh.
The mini-musical was just as immersive as last year’s offering, but unfortunately Chicago, especially in the short form, doesn’t lend itself to a lot of varied costuming. Mama Tits switched from a black dress in “Cell Block Tango” to a similar gown in gold for her solo number and Leigh’s Billy Flynn wore a white dinner jacket, but overall it was a lot of black lace and ripped stockings – which is what Chicago is all about. The look was coherent and consistent, but it left me really missing the bursts of color in the first act.
As Mama and Tipsy are getting ready to head down south like a couple of snowbirds, the cabaret is going to be growing and changing; Isabella Extynn will be taking over as emcee and they will be performing their first original show, A Boob Job For Christmas, over the holiday season. Regardless of what show they are spoofing or stylizing, Mimosas Cabaret is always at the top of my must-see shows whenever I’m in Seattle. They have a welcoming environment, talented performers, and fruity drinks that will definitely get you into some serious tomfoolery! I hope this little buffet of clips has whetted your appetite for more – if you are visiting Seattle, this is definitely a live show you want to check out. Just like a mimosa, it goes down so smooth…
Tags: Abby Roads, Billy Flynn, Champagne Dreams Productions, Chicago, community theatre, drag art, drag king, drag performance, drag queen, drag show, drag troupe, Isabella Extynn, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Mama Tits, Mimosas Cabaret, Mimosas With Mama, Miss Jaye, Roxy Hart, Ruby Bouche, Skyscraper Entertainment, Sparkle Leigh, theatre, Tipsy Rose Lee, Unicorn, Unicorn Seattle, World of Champagne