Posted May 31, 2012 at 11:42 am
by Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post
Though Lou Reed name-checked him in “Walk on the Wild Side” — as the one who “thought she was James Dean for a day” — Jackie Curtis is less famous today than fellow Warhol superstars Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling.
But the late playwright-poet-singer-actor may have been the most creative of them all. And now he’s the subject of the rocking, raunchy and downright exhilarating tribute “Jukebox Jackie — Snatches of Jackie Curtis,” which just opened at La MaMa.
Curtis (1947-1985) was born John Holder Jr., and lived and performed both as a man and in drag. “I’m not a boy, not a girl,” he once said. “I’m just me, Jackie.”
Conceived and directed by Scott Wittman — the Tony-winning lyricist for “Hairspray,” “Catch Me If You Can” and the songs on TV’s “Smash” — this 90-minute revue isn’t so much a bioplay as a trippy dream.
Gathered on a luscious set by Scott Pask (“The Book of Mormon”), Justin Vivian Bond (of Kiki and Herb fame), Cole Escola and Bridget Everett play different sides of Curtis. Bond is resplendent in the “superstar in a housedress” persona. The youthful-looking Escola — jailbait! — is Curtis’ fragile alter ego and the bawdy Everett his irrepressible, punk-rock id.
And then there’s Steel Burkhardt (“Hair”), who, strapped in a tight tank top and leather pants, embodies Curtis’ virile object of desire.
Wittman built the show out of many parts, starting with songs that Curtis either co-wrote or performed, or were part of the glam-rock zeitgeist Curtis helped inspire — all backed by a live band.
And it’s one nugget after another. A sultry rendition of “Cigarettes, Cigars,” a decadent 1931 song — “Now I’ve learned what smoking coke and snow means/Among the guys who’ve never learned what ‘no’ means” — that Curtis did in a cabaret show. A sexy cover of David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging.” The unearthing of “Half Smoked Cigarette,” co-written by Curtis and Peter Allen — yes, that Peter Allen.
Mixed with the numbers are bits from Curtis’ diary, lengthy excerpts from his 1967 play “Glamour, Glory and Gold” and a racy re-enactment of a scene from the movie “Women in Revolt.”
Despite its free-flowing appearance and some unhinged, very un-Broadway outrageousness, the show has a solid bone structure. Wittman expertly weaves together seemingly disparate strands, making a case for Curtis as a gentle provocateur who loved classic Hollywood while forging his own path. As a love letter to a golden age of New York creativity, “Jukebox Jackie” is hard to beat.