Sage Viscovi on The Kinsey Sicks at Creative Alliance
Originality in showbiz has become its own art form. How does one do something truly unique as a performance in this day and age? It’s so easy to unintentionally copy someone who was “a five-six-seven-eight” steps ahead of you. For example:
Men in tights? Seen it.
Political debates? Yawn.
A cappella groups? Been there, done that.
Men in tights having a political debate while singing a cappella? Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!
Cue The Kinsey Sicks, who describes themselves as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet.” Known nationwide for their original lyrics and a-cappella parodies of hit songs, their work is both highly comedic and politically driven. “Kinsey Sicks” comes from a play-on-words of “Kinsey 6”, the polar homosexual side of the Kinsey scale.Photo by Maurice Molyneaux: The Kinsey Sicks (from L-R): Winnie, Rachel, Trixie, and Trampolina
In 1993, The Kinsey Sicks began as a group of five friends ranging from lawyers to professional activists. The group attended a Bette Midler concert in San Francisco dressed as the Andrews Sisters, expecting to be ones of many drag queens in attendance that evening. Alas, life has interesting ways of turning failures around. Despite being the only ones there in drag, they were approached by a woman who inquired if they would perform at her 50th birthday party. Unaware of each other’s prior music experiences at the time, they decided to form a super group.
The Kinsey Sicks has gone through several lineup changes since their formation in July of 1994. Their original arrangement consisted of Jerry Friedman as “Vaselina”, Abatto Avilez as “Begoña”, Maurice Kelly as “Trixie”, Irwin Keller as “Winnie”, and Ben Schatz as “Rachel”. They managed to draw in a hefty, excited audience at their very first public performance on a street corner in San Francisco’s Castro District, one of America’s first gay neighborhoods. The following year Avilez died, thus turning the group from a quintet to a quartet where it has remained ever since. Through years of full-length theatrical performances and concerts around the U.S., they eventually reached enough commercial success to leave their former jobs and become the performative force they are today.
Photo by Paco Ojeda: The current Kinsey Sicks lineup (from L-R): Spencer Brown (Trampolina), Ben Schatz (Rachel), Jeff Manabat (Trixie), and Nathan Marken (Winnie)
Each member of The Kinsey Sicks has a fully developed character and back- story. Ben Schatz is the eldest and only remaining founding member in the current lineup, who plays the role of “Rachel” – a loud, angry feminist distinguished by her petite size, stocky build, and fuzzy armpits. Schatz is a civil rights lawyer out of Harvard University and also the former Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. His achievements over the past 30 years include the creation of the first national AIDS legal project and authorship of Bill Clinton’s HIV policy during his 1992 campaign.
Next in 2004 came UC Berkeley musical-theatre graduate, Jeff Manabat, as “Trixie”. Discovered by the then-current members of The Kinsey Sicks while performing in a production of When Pigs Fly at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, the casting of Manabat (who is of Filipino descent) meant that men of three different ethnicities have played Trixie’s character since her creation. “Trixie” is a luxurious, self-absorbed diva that referred to the other members as her “backup singers”.
Already an established drag performer under the moniker Daisy Bucket (pronounced “bouquet”), Kansas City native and AMDA graduate Spencer Brown joined the group next in October of 2008 as “Trampolina” – the dumb and whorish one of the bunch, but warmhearted all around. Finally, finishing off this year’s roster is San Francisco-born Nathan Marken who replaced Keller as “Winnie” – a saucy yet charming dork – in October of 2014.
Photo by Paco Ojeda
The ladies of The Kinsey Sicks stopped by East Baltimore’s own Creative Alliance for one night only, as part of their Kinsey Sicks: Electile Dysfunction Tour. Electile Dysfunction features the four gals campaigning to become the first Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet to be elected President of the United States on the GOP ballot. The no-intermission, laugh-out-loud act was chockfull of brownnosing, conspiracy theories, and embezzling our current Republican candidates through slick songs and parodies in four-part harmony.
To my surprise, the audience mostly consisted of older folks and by the looks of it, my colleague and I were the youngest people there. Nonetheless, they would still go on to provide hearty reactions to the nutty (no pun intended) antics that would occur on stage. And speaking of the stage… what a beautiful theater! Josh Kohn, the creative director at Creative Alliance and the show’s emcee, made a note before the girls came onstage that the venue used to be a film theater which explained the lush curtains and spacious seating area.
Then, the real fun began. With witty tunes with titles such as “Sell The Poor” and “Scalia” (a parody of “Maria” from West Side Story about late Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia), The Kinsey Sicks had the crowd struggling to catch their breath from their incessant laughter. They had me chortling start to finish (and maybe a little more intensely after a generous serving of Raging Bitch pale ale), and I envied those who were selected to be audience volunteers. One number I recall involved Winnie seducing a particular female audience member named “Maryn” (or perhaps it was “Maren”? Rachel jokingly mispronounced it “Maroon”, “Moron” etc. on several occasions anyway).
My favorite number of the evening was a duet between Trampolina and Trixie creatively titled “A Whole New Hole”, a skanky rendition of Aladdin’s most famous and beloved melody. This version involved Trampolina, still a “virgin”, learning about, well… a whole new hole, for lack of a better phrasing, from Trixie. The choreography was hilariously dirty and given the fact that Aladdin has always been my favorite Disney flick, it was oddly endearing to see this interpretation.
I believe it’s safe to say that after this raunchy evening, I’ve officially become a fan of The Kinsey Sicks and I anticipate future shows in the area. They’ve got my vote for office any day!
Author Sage Viscovi is a senior at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a student intern for BmoreArt.
Top Image: Photo by C. Stanley, courtesy of Theater J The Kinsey Sicks on stage in Electile Dysfunction