Where in New York City can you see Pink flying Cirque du Soleil-style from ropes in the air? Katy Perry shooting whip cream from her bra? Tina Turner belting Proud Mary and Madonna crooning her classic hits? Well, no where... but you can see dazzling drag reenactments of these and other legendary performances every Friday and Saturday night beginning today, November 25th, when the new off-Broadway show ICONS kicks off its heels and lip syncs for its life at the Snapple Theatre Center (1627 Broadway @ 50th Street). Curtains rise at 10:45pm.
"We're bringing a little debauchery back to Times Square," says Tom D'Angora, the co-creator and producer of Icons. "Drag acts have long been performed at gay bars in New York, but there's no actual live show for those outside of the gay community.
ICONS presents an opportunity for tourists visiting New York to experience the pageantry of drag. We want them to be able to leave from their vacation with that ‘you won't believe what we did in New York...' story."
"ICONS is the perfect after-Broadway extravaganza," continues D'Angora's producing (and life) partner, Michael Duling. "For those who aren't ready to go back to their hotel rooms, they can come to our show and party into the Manhattan night, enjoying the unforgettable moments that turned their favorite singing stars into icons."
ICONS got its start in Provincetown, where D'Angora and Duling were producing the staged show of Naked Boys Singing. The venue owner approached the pair about creating a Vegas-style celebrity impression drag show. Not exactly fans of drag, the couple were resistant at first but then someone suggested staging Madonna's Blond Ambition cone bra performance. It sparked the idea to build a show recreating iconic performances.
"At the time, none of us understood what we were creating," remembers D'Angora. "During rehearsals, we thought the show was terrible but then, on opening night, the first number (a spoof of Beyonce and Gaga's "Telephone") got a standing ovation! We quickly realized we had accidentally stumbled onto something that people were really responding to."
ICONS quickly became Provincetown's biggest show. While every other show played three to five times a week, ICONS played nine.D'Angora and Duling say the show is designed for an ADD generation. Every ninety seconds, something drastically changes: a new number is launched, a dancer is added, a costume is ripped away. The seventy minute show is split into three acts, the first is all dancing, loud music, and crazy energy. The second act switches to comedy with ICONS' own version of RuPaul's Drag Race. The show's Rupaul ushers two guys up from the audience, dresses them in horrifically bad drag and makes them lip sync to "I Touch Myself".
Then it's time to rock out with Gaga, Beyonce, and a whole medley of today's hottest lady superstars performing hyper-theatrical numbers of "Born This Way", "Single Ladies", "California Gurls", "Slave 4 U", and more. The biggest surprise for audiences is that two performers do it all! Dennis Williams and Ricardo Torres play every role in the show, frantically switching into new divas right before the audiences' eyes.
Before ICONS, Williams had never even done drag. "At the auditions, he was a ridiculous mess and made us laugh a lot," recalls D'Angora.
According to Duling, Torres didn't speak a lot of English but he looked a lot like Madonna and his hair was dyed yellow to match the coif Lady Gaga was sporting at the time. "Ricardo performed with a lot of intensity. You could feel his passion. He also owned several Gaga costumes already."
"Both kids exude a genuine talent," explains D'Angora. "They're so much more than drag queens parading around and acting sassy. They are stars and freakishlyenergetic."
They have to be. The local Provincetown magazine wrote in its review of ICONS:
"You look for oxygen tanks to be wheeled on stage during the finale for every one to catch their breath".
Even more important than make-up and costumes to the show is its choreography. While most drag performances plays up the camp and glitter of the superstars, ICONS portrays the ladies' spunk that made them icons. "We could do ICONS without one costume and people would still love it, " says Duling. "Like the tireless ladies we are portraying, our show is about dancing and sweating."