Review: ‘Dragapella!’

In the world of camp, heterosexuality is the biggest joke of all. But "Dragapella!," featuring the a capella quartet the Kinsey Sicks, may disprove that old truism.

In the world of camp, heterosexuality is the biggest joke of all. But “Dragapella!,” featuring the a capella quartet the Kinsey Sicks, may disprove that old truism. Four guys renamed Rachel, Trixie, Winnie and Trampolina are at their collective best when they skewer gay subjects — same-sex weddings, HIV cocktails and turkey-baster babies — in more than a dozen original songs and parodies.

The show takes a while to hit its stride. Too early in the evening, Rachel (Ben Schatz) feels compelled to introduce us to the bane of all live theater — audience participation — and picks an unsuspecting theatergoer to simulate sexual intercourse onstage. From the look on the gentleman’s face, you don’t have to be heterosexual to wish you’d gone to “Mamma Mia!” instead.

Rachel then launches into some between-song patter as she scratches her rear, the capper being her handshake with someone in the front row. (Is anyone still reading this review?)

But Schatz’s vulgarity as a performer is surpassed only by his sly inventiveness as a lyricist. Top of the heap is his “AZT,” a takeoff on the Jackson 5’s “ABC” that crams in every protease-inhibitor drug known to the HIV-infected while managing to be riotously funny in the process.

The song is also the perfect introduction to one of the evening’s few forays from the ridiculous into the sublime, with Schatz’s lovely original ballad “Bogna’s Song.” The inspiration may have been AIDS, but with lyrics that claim “I stay home and hide/As if I’m the one who died” the Kinsey Sicks could be singing about any crisis past, future or ongoing.

As a quartet, these singers always register total respect for the style of the material they’re sending up, with poor Celine Dion being the possible exception. Dilley’s Trampolina parodies her “Titanic” dirge as well as Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” with equal aplomb.

As Winnie, Keller wears the least makeup but scores the most laughs. His rendition of “Papirossen” is delivered in Yiddish — at least it sounded like Yiddish — and goes from heart-breaking bathos to utter absurdity.

Surprisingly, the group’s most glaring flaw as vocalists is the absence of a terrific male falsetto. Maybe tighter bustiers would help. Steven Howard and Bob Miller designed the drag wear, which is pure Barbie Doll for the six-foot set.

Dragapella!

Upstairs at 54; 220 seat; $55 top

Production

A Kinsey Sicks Boyz 2 Girlz and Maria Di Dia presentation of a musical revue written by the Kinsey Sicks with music and lyrics by Ben Schatz. Directed by Glenn Casale.

Creative

Vocal arrangements, Irwin Keller and Chris Dilley. Set, Lauren Helpern; costumes, Bob Miller and Steven Howard; lighting, Traci Klainer; sound, Brian Ronan; production stage manager, Sarah Marshall. Opened Oct. 24, 2001. Reviewed Oct. 20. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast

Rachel - Ben Schatz
Trampolina - Chris Dilley
Trixie - Maurice Kelly
Winnie - Irwin Keller
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