Culture Vulture: TAYLOR MAC AT TOWN HALL

December 14, 2017


Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History: Holiday Sauce was in some ways a New Orleans-style funeral for drag legend Mother Flawless Sabrina disguised as a Christmas show. Between some of the most savage, scornful renditions of carols and pointedly political commentary, Taylor shared the pearls of wisdom that judy gleaned from a long apprenticeship with Flawless Sabrina, who died three weeks ago at the age of 78. An icon within the drag/faerie/trans community, Sabrina was best known for organizing a national drag competition that culminated in an event at Town Hall that became the basis for the award-winning documentary film The Queen. That made this concert at Town Hall exactly 50 years later a very special convergence of powerful forces.


“Remember your substitution skills” was a Flawless Sabrina axiom that Taylor Mac employed in order to give a queer spin to classic holiday numbers (“O Holy Night” was thoroughly sliced and diced to layer acceptably inclusive meanings over heterosexist Christian-capitalist propaganda). And the essence of Mother Flawless Sabrina’s teaching was that “expression is an act of citizenship,” a lesson Taylor Mac has thoroughly absorbed.


The show was a sort of coda to the 24-Decade History of Popular Music that judy unfurled at St. Ann’s Warehouse last year, with the same extraordinary collaborators, genius costume designer Machine Dazzle and supernaturally gifted music director Matt Ray. Taylor’s first outfit combined a Christmas wreath headdress that conjured Medusa, a camisole with roast-pig epaulets, and a tutu-skirt of candy canes, reindeer antlers, and pussy-grabbing hands; while Tigger Ferguson performed the inevitable striptease (to “Spirit in the Sky”), Taylor changed into a Glinda tiara with carousel hoop-skirt.


Machine of course appeared as well, first as a Christmas tree, then as naughty housemaid.


From the piano, Matt Ray took the exquisite eight-piece orchestra through a nutty unpredictable set list that ended with the whole house quietly humming “Silent Night” along with the distinctly New Orleans-flavored horn section. Additional special guest Glenn Marla came out as Hot Santa to demonstrate how every mall in America could use this season to conduct a Sexual Consent Workshop.


It was one of those all-star audiences that convene for special occasions in New York. Andy and I went with our friends David Zinn, Bob Mower, and Phil Hayes (who jumped onstage when Taylor Mac summoned all the Brits to sing along with the Pogues’ beery pub anthem “Fairytale of New York,” above). There was Jackie Rudin, of course, with Fussy LoMein, and Wesley Morris, and Rob Marx and Jim Ingalls, and Emily McDonnell, and Gabriel Ebert, and and and. The minute the show ended, everyone looked at their phones and learned the good news from Alabama, and the theater erupted again with cheers and tears.

A bunch of us repaired to Cafe Un Deux Trois afterwards for refreshments. O, what a night!

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