Monday, August 29, 2011

Come To The Cabaret!

      Below Zero has always been one of the most interesting bars in town because of its space, the diversity of the clientele, and the relaxed, multimedia vibe.  We’ve usually dropped by during the Fringe Fest in June and the Mid-Point Music Festival in September (yes, it’s going to be here soon—September 22 to 24—and it is not to be missed) and have always been impressed.  Well, lemme tell ya, they’ve stepped it up another notch by hosting The Cabaret upstairs and it’s the best drag show this region has ever seen.

M.C. Penny Tration
      Penny Tration is the M.C. and entrepreneurial force behind The Cabaret and she delivers like a LISTSERV with free coupons.  She’s the epitome of the drag artiste.  Sassy yet somehow elegant, both witty and
compassionate, she stirs up a tornado of laughs.  She’s performed around the U.S. and is most recently from New York, but she feels like a Cincinnati mainstay already.  Fingers crossed that she can keep this show going because there have been bright spots in the past that flamed out quickly.  I think of the cabaret on Sycamore Street over a decade ago where CCM students served and performed.  It wasn’t drag performing, but rather show and pop tunes, but it could only keep going for about a year and that was with a committed core of patrons.  Anyway, Penny’s a fabulous babe and we’re fortunate just to have her here at all.

Jessica Dimon
      The show begins at 11:15, though it’s packed by 11, and there’s a second set right after midnight.  The space has been adapted to a more intimate and attractive theatre through the use of draperies on both sides of the catwalk and café tables.  The problem is if you don’t have/reserve a table (we didn’t), you’re stuck standing and/or peering around the curtains hoping to see more of the action, although it was worth it.  Expect five or six performers lipsyncing to various club versions of pop hits, current and classic, and changing their costumes and sometimes their hair for the second set.  The running commentary can be racy, raunchy, or just flat out hilarious depending on the performer and the M.C’s mood.  Mystique, who was a contestant the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, performed and her reputation is as mysterious to me as it was when she was on TV.  She’s somewhat mediocre and her size could be an issue for audience members sitting close to the stage or the catwalk if she were to take a tumble.  Penny’s commentary did not entirely rule that out or the weak spots in the actual stage floor being even more stressed during Mystique’s performance.  She also had a slight wardrobe malfunction where her gown was a little too highly slit – or inadvertently split – and her undergarments were partly visible.  Monica St. James made up for Mystique with verve and style, while Jessica Dimon from Covington was drop dead gorgeous and intent upon syncing as realistically as possible.  As Penny noted, she sings a tranny note for the company.  The rest of the artistes – local and visiting – did themselves and their drag mothers and babies proud.  There were a couple of local stars in the audience that I hope will consider performing in the future.

      Entrance is free, but I think a $5 - $10 cover charge would be appropriate.  Drinks are reasonable. The bartending and wait staff members, one of whom performed later, are friendly and efficient.  Remember to bring dollar bills to tip the staff and the performers during their numbers.  Performances are Thursday through Sunday nights.

Did someone say something about the Kit-Cat club?

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