PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: The Vaudevillians' Jinkx Monsoon Picks "Drag Standards For the Old and Old at Heart"
By Michael Gioia
The Off-Broadway musical comedy The Vaudevillians stars "RuPaul's Drag Race" winner Jinkx Monsoon in her New York theatre debut. Here, Monsoon picks her favorite drag standards "For the Old and Old at Heart" as part of Playbill.com's Playbill Playlist series.
Monsoon stars alongside composer and musician Richard Andriessen in The Vaudevillians, which has been extended three times through Aug. 29 at The Laurie Beechman Theater. The Vaudevillians was originally planned as a one-night engagement.
Here's how the show is billed: "Throughout the 1920s Kitty Witless and Dr. Dan Von Dandy toured speakeasies and burlesque theaters through the United States as The Vaudevillians, wowing audiences with their edgy, original music. Unfortunately, one day, tragedy struck. While touring through Antarctica, they were victims of a devastating avalanche and were buried under two tons of sleet and snow - instantly freezing them alive. But thanks to Global Warming, they recently thawed out only to discover that pop artists of various decades had stolen their music and passed it off as their own. Much to their shock and chagrin, songs including 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' (which was originally about the Woman's Suffragette Movement), and 'Drop it Like it's Hot' (which was originally about the invention of the electric iron) had become hits for lesser artists. Now, at long last, they are taking to the stage to reclaim their songs, performing their music as originally composed."
"I have always been more drawn to the classic side of drag, the side of drag that emulates, imitates, innovates and preserves the old Hollywood, brassy Broadway, razzamatazz side of drag," Monsoon told Playbill.com. "I think there's something to be said for each of these songs when it is performed (either live, or lip synched) by a drag queen. They take on a new life and a new meaning. Innuendoes are exposed where they weren't originally intended. It's a way to give an old song new life, new cultural relevance and a new audience."
She added, "These are not only my favorite songs to perform, but my favorite songs to watch be performed. They range in obscurity and style and all that, but they are each and every one a drag standard in their own right."
Here are Monsoon's favorite drag standards and why they made her list. For more information on The Vaudevillians, visit SpinCycleNYC.com.
"Glitter and be Gay" (Candide) Specifically, Kristin Chenoweth's version (although Patricia Petibon's is my favorite vocally)… Not only is it a song about the ingénue having mixed emotions about her lot in life being that of a trophy wife, but she succumbs to the glamour of expensive jewelry. Any queen can relate.
"The Diva Dance: The Fifth Element" (Otherwise known as "The Mad Aria" from Lucia Di Lammermoor) What drag queen didn't go absolutely ape-sh*t when that blue-alien diva came out and did a techno remix of this beautiful aria?!?
"Let's Have a Kiki" (Scissor Sisters) This is a fairly new one, but it has everything a drag standard needs — catchy beat, catchy catch phrases, and it lends itself to vogueing. It can be a flop in the wrong hands... but in the RIGHT hands, it's the last word in a drag show.
"Bring On The Men" (Jekyll and Hyde) Perfect example of sexual innuendo being exploited by the skillful queen.
"Bosom Buddies" (Mame) The best drag duet, hands down. The sharp wit may be a little dated, but imagine Alaska and I crooning each other with it and you'll get the appeal.
"Do It With a Rockstar" (Amanda Palmer) This is a fairly new song, but Amanda Palmer gives you all you need in this amazing song. In your face bravado with a keen musical sensibility. It ramps up, teases and ignites an audience.
"Cabaret" (Cabaret) This is as much a drag queen anthem as any song ever could be. Because, after all, what good IS sitting, all alone in your room?
"Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid) Every queen has a little bit of Disney villain in her. It's where so many of us earned about hyper-femininity and TRUE diva mentality. This song is for every queen to live out her inner witch.
"Rose's Turn" (Gypsy) This requires a certain amount of tact. Mama Rose is not only an iconic character who has been interpreted by almost every major grand dame of theatre.. but the song itself cannot be thrown around willy-nilly. You have to be ready to take on the swan song that is "Rose's Turn." But if you are/if you can, you are a true queen who has paid her dues.
Everybody's Girl (Steel Pier) This song is right for almost every occasion. It's fun, it's smart, it's lively, and it's best performed live. It has been one of my live standards for years and will continue to be. Because in the hands of a skillful queen, this song is not only timeless, but it's a showstopper and a sure-fire winner in almost any circumstance.
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