When Australia’s Courtney Act takes the stage in a shimmering, provocatively zippered, pink sheath, slit to the hip, you can’t take your eyes off her. She’s lovely.
And okay, I tried hard to suss out any evidence of maleness in her lean, feminine body and I saw only a girl in painfully high heels and extravagant wigs. Act’s act of girlness is flawless.
More to the point, a few minutes into the performance you forget she’s a drag queen until she reminds you with the material. She points out that the title,Boys Like Me, might confuse. Are we talking about boys who are like her or are we saying boys like her? Well, yes. She offers us a funny woman with a versatile voice and plenty of disarming patter.
Courtney (it’s all first names here) made some interesting musical choices. My favorite was an irreverent rewrite of “At the Ballet.” She makes it “At the Valet” supporting a bit about meeting a man at valet parking in L.A. She does a skein of songs all containing the word crazy. She cops to channelling Tom Jones with “Sex Bomb” and Madonna with “Like a Virgin.” Then, inexplicably, she does “Clouds” fairly straight (sic!) and with feeling — a decision that takes the patter driven “all-boys-together-here” off the rails. Act is backed up by three heads-up musicians — piano, guitar and drums. Oddly, though she plays off them, she fails to introduce them.
The crowd of mostly gay men was appreciative and she knows her crowd. She does an entertaining bit about a straight guy she ‘dated’ while in drag and then ran into later dressed as Shane Jenek, her male self. They plan to meet another night — a night she was not working — and so not in drag. She looks knowingly at the audience, assumes a posture of ‘as if’ and says: You know I’m not going to go ‘full slap for a trick” which draws knowing laughs.
The generous host at the Laurie BeechmanTheatre, the underground venue where Boys Like Me debuted an encore run this week, plunked me front row center — filling the remaining seat at a table of five.
We five had time to talk before the lights came down as the performance was already15 minutes behind when I was seated. Some table wisdom: “Queens are always late!” — this from the older woman to my left. She and the zaftig young woman beside her had driven seven hours from Cleveland to be at opening night. And the zaftig woman? Not just a fan, an acolyte. Later Courtney Act introduced her (Katie P. for those who follow the followed in this alternate universe) and thanked her for coming.
The two young men on my right were giddy with excitement. They told me Courtney was fabulous in RuPaul’s Drag Race and that they had seen her before and, oh yes, get comfortable, she’ll be late.
There is something a little cultish about the whole thing — the fan boys, the groupies, and the raft of double entendres that underscore membership in this, dare I say, netherworld. She draws a roar when she suggests all men are ‘bottoms’.
So, as a straight woman I was outside that circle, to be sure. That said, I had a great time, and if you’re asking, I’d say go and bring some friends.
Boys Like Me at the Laurie Beecham Theatre (inside the West Bank Cafe), 407 West 42nd Street through August 21st. Ninety minutes with not so much an intermission as a costume change.