|Musical director Joe Wicht and singer Connie Champagne. Photo by Rink.
Connie Champagne Sings Songs To Make You Gay
If youâve ever gone to one of those annoying homophobic websites about certain songs and singers being a gateway to homosexuality, you will truly appreciate Connie Champagne in Songs to Make You Gay, now running at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, and featuring Joe Wicht aka Trauma Flintstone (out of drag). Champagne first appears in full-on traditional nunâs habit, wimple, and veil as Sister Constance - having first sung âMariaâ from West Side Story while at a backstage mic. Her rendition of âHow Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?â from Sound of Music convincingly confirms her confirmation as a Sister. She explains that her Order has found a website, âLoveGodsWay.com, naming het-threatening songs to be avoided at all costs to oneâs âGod-givenâ heterosexuality. Sadly, the Madonna, a being beatified by her Order, is at the top of the homo-turning warning list. Even so, she sings the hell out of Mâs âBorderline.â But suddenly a change comes over her. Ripping off the dour nun drag, she reveals rainbow neon streaked hair and a sexy fringy clingy purple gown to sing âLike a Virginâ and act anything but virginal. She even turns it into an audience sing-along. Warning: THIS could be the start of a mass audience queer conversion!
What is more â70s gay than David Bowie? So the now ânewly homophileâ Champagne does that oh so androgynous dude homo homage with âRebel Rebelâ and âLady Stardust.â Then we take a âWalk on the Wild Sideâ as she does the Lou Reed piece to perfection: ââŠ shaved her legs, and then he was a she.â âSing along with the colored girls,â the song urges, and we do: âdoot do doot!â On our wild walk towards fagdom, we must accompany her on the semi-tragic âBoulevard of Broken Dreams.â
This show is all the more fabulous and faggy because of Champagneâs co-star Joe Wicht - marvelous musical director, arranger, pianist, and singer. The witty patter between Wicht and Champagne really makes the show. The two duet delightfully in a delicious takeoff on the Peter OâToole movie, re-titled âFLORENCE of Arabia,â queen of the desert sands. Guess who wrote this dirty little ditty: none other than Rodney Dangerfield! Then we get into those âcodedâ songs of yore, where gay composers such as Cole Porter and Noel Coward wrote lyrics that could be interpreted as same-sex love and love unrequited. Joe and Connie LOUDLY SING the love that dare not speak its name! The slow-building crescendo of Champagneâs âMad about the Boyâ is simply astounding. While she changes into yet another stunning outfit (thank you Tahara, Mr. David, Kathleen Crowley, and Jordan LâAmour), he plunks out poofter pieces of purple prose, biting out the lyrics (including âLesbian Love Songâ).
Out sashays Champagne to sing one of my favorite nun songs, what I call âSister,â but is actually entitled âMiss Celieâs Bluesâ from The Color Purple. âShake your shimmy, Sister!â And she does. Itâs not all gaiety though. She brings the tone down to mellow and almost maudlin with âBluest Eyes in Texasâ and South Pacificâs âIf I Loved You.â This is the perfect time for her to tell her heart wrenching story of her motherâs love affair.
But then itâs back to being âlight in the loafersâ with her wacky imitation of batty Beatrice Lily in âThere Are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden.â
He also gets all Doris Day on us to sing âSecret Love,â which really was a secret back in the day when movie fans had no clue that DDâs romantic co-star Rock Hudson was cocksman Hudson. Can you imagine Connie as Rock and Joe as Bea Arthur? You will with the druggy âEvârybody Today Is Turning On.â Just like Doris, Connie will cook up some hot stuff when she pulls out the Gay Cookbook.
Champagne has plenty to say about queer equality, especially in her riveting rendition of âMarriedâ from Cabaret. Now itâs time for a plug: Go see Champagne reprise her role as Neely OâHara in Valley of the Dolls at Marc Huestisâ July 20 production at the Castro Theatre, featuring the original Neely live onsage, Patty Duke. Connie will elaborate, recite, and then sing the sappy theme song. She gets really gritty with âTown without Pityâ and shows her âTrue Colors.â After Joeâs gay medley, by now if youâre not gay, howzabout some disco, dearie?!
Whether perched on a perch, sitting on a stool, or plopped onto a piano, Connie Champagne is the ideal chanteuse muse to turn you gay â or at least deliriously delighted!
Connie Champagne Sings Songs to Make You Gay runs now through Aug. 1 at NCTC, 25 Van Ness near Market. Tix range from $20 â 29 at (415) 861-8972 or nctcsf.org. Go see, even if you think youâre already gay enough or have no intentions of the same-sex switch! Itâs FABULOUSSS!!!