Friday, April 29, 2016

"Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls"

Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls
D’Arcy Drollinger (Book)
Enrique (Music & Lyrics); Steve Bolinger (Additional Music)

D'Arcy Drollinger, Nancy French & John Paul Gonzalez
Hard rock, drug overdoses, murder, lots (and lots) of T & A, miracles from heaven, space invaders, and of course wild and wooly sex.  What else would we expect from D’Arcy Drollinger’s lastest, over-the-top parody?  (Remember the recent big hits Shit and Champagne and Temple of Poon, both loved by the more deranged and demented of us in SF?)  Well, ladies and gents, hold on to your cups and your jock straps because his most recent melodrama-on-steroids is a musical; and it is damn good -- just as you would expect from anything that D’Arcy touches. 

First performed almost twenty years ago, D’Arcy Drollinger’s (book) Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls is a pastiche extraordinaire of at least three, now-cult favorites:  Russ Meyer’s 1970 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 Showgirls, and the late-eighties cartoon, “Jem and the Holograms.”  And it is not difficult to see nods to Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Rocky Horror Show along the way.  Everything but the kitchen sink that is sinful and silly in the last thirty years of girl band and showgirl naughtiness is game for Director D’Arcy’s current outing’s fun and fantastical mockery.  Thanks to the music and lyrics by Enrique and additional music of Steve Bolinger, it all comes with a good hard band beat and sung words to draw gasps and laughter.

Wanna-be hit band, the Super Vixens, is in search of a big break; and its three big-haired, big tits, and just big all over girls are looking for the sugar daddy to take them to the top.  Chardonnay (John Paul Gonzalez), Chablis (D’Arcy Drollinger), and Gewürztraminer (Nancy French) are best friends with serious make-up issues (blue lips, pink eye shadow, painted eye brows anyone?) and tight, sparkly outfits that barely cover their ... well, their everything.  But they can sing and perform on stage with girl gusto, like in their opening “Wanna Be Your Flesh Popcycle” (“and I want you to lick me”) or their later “Thunder Pussy” (written in 15/4?).  With perfectly coordinated movements exaggerated to the hilt; strong, reverberating voices; and heads of ratted hair that fly in all directions, the Vixens are a total hoot to enjoy.

Enter Richard Face of Warmer Sisters Records (Manuel Caneri), who immediately says, “Call me Dick,” of course than setting off like Chinese New Year fireworks an explosion of “Dick” jokes by all three Vixens.  With his two hot-dressed, totally sexy sidekicks and back-up singers, Cabernet (Jane D’Oh) and Chianti (Bobby Barnaby), the flashy (and also sexy) Dick asks in song, “Do you want to go to heaven, to be a star?” as the three sing in outstanding voice and great rock harmony, “You Got the Certain Something.”  But he does not sing to all the Vixens, just to the more petite and cute Gewurtz, mocking the other two (who are of course drag queens to us) and their Adams apples, big feet, and deep voices.

Nancy French -- with a blank, deer-in-headlight look that only she can do in show after show at the Oasis – sings in nice ballad voice “Don’t You See I Can’t Leave Them?,” followed by a hilarious “I’m Still Thinking” (with the five-piece band in the background joining in).  But she does decide to join Dick and his dynamo duo as the new lead singer, becoming Sherry (going from dinner wine to aperitif) and eventually opening on the big stage in a cone-shaped bra that Madonna would envy, belting in full bluster, “Slide It On Into My Ice Bucket.”  (Get the gist?  The songs are all XXX-rated ... and then some.)

And it is at this point that the parodies of the aforementioned films really kick in.  The now-rejected Chardonnay and Chablis are like fine wines turned to vinegar; and the road ahead for them is through the one valley dolls like them have gone down before to meet their demise.  The twists and turns are only to be seen to be believed; but just to give a hint of the fun to come, John Paul Gonzalez brings to bear his falsetto best as Chardonnay at one point pitifully sings, “If I Only Had Arms,” opining with those big, sad eyes, “Life isn’t fair, I can’t even do my hair.”

A D’Arcy touch well known to his Oasis fans is to announce scenes and locations with a scantily clad, full-of-attitude showgirl prancing (or sometimes stumbling) across the stage with a big-lettered placard.  Lavale William Davis wonderfully fulfills the role in this show as Karla Rossi, bringing her rich singing voice to bear in a number of cast songs and also playing with attitude various filler parts along the way.  Joining also in the cast is Melinda Campero as Cristal Anderson as a raving, screaming Vixen fan who finally makes it big herself and gets to deliver maybe the night’s best number in full New Orleans, back-alley sound, “Sweet Talking Candyman.”

Just watch a few minutes of a “Jem and the Holygrams” cartoon, and you will begin to see the inspirations for the glitzy, tight-fitting, often-sparse costumes that Christine Crook has so creatively designed for the show and that are as much a part of its total success as any other aspect.  Becky Motorlodge’s wigs also play a starring role along with whoever -- probably the actors themselves -- create and apply each night the mounds of glittering make-up. 

The show’s multi-genre musical score -- with the rock sound of the 80s predominating -- is played with perfect pizzazz by its band of five, four of whom were in the original show nineteen years prior.  Steve Bolinger (keyboards), Peter Fogel (guitar), Christian Matthews (drums), Tim Perdue (bass) and Julie Vlcek-Burke (horns) are on stage the entire show and not only provide the musical backdrop but also often join in to add camp and comedy.

D’Arcy Drolinger and Friends do not produce high-brow theatre, and their choice of subjects and texts will not work for everyone (certainly no one under 21 and no one who plans to vote for Ted Cruz).  But much  intelligent ingenuity is woven into each guffaw-rich parody produced, with the decision to venture into the realm of musical comedy being exactly the right one for their latest Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls.

Rating: 5 E

Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls continues through May 14, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 7 p.m., at Oasis, 298 11th Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are available at

Photo by Gareth Gooch

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