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October 14, 2004

Quad City News

President George W. Bush did not approve this message. At least not the one coming from his newest “supporters,” the Kinsey Sicks — who bill themselves as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet.” The drag queen foursome, which got its start in Sacramento, Calif., 11 years ago, mocks the GOP with its show “I Wanna Be a Republican.” It makes a campaign stop at the RiverCenter Adler Theatre on Sunday night.

The setting is a Republican fund-raiser conducted by “Rachel,” “Winnie,” “Trixie” and “Trampolina.” And crowds, according to Irwin Keller, who plays Winnie, are loving it. We had a little bit of uncertainty of how it would go in the Bible belt. So far, so good on this tour,” Keller said, while waiting for his order of fish and chips at a Jack in the Box in Rock Hill, S.C. “People have been eating it up.” The show skewers politics in general, and Republicans in particular. People are hungry for stuff that is intelligent and progressive and fun, and speaks out on a variety of issues,” he said. The plan was to adjust the show as current events in the campaign warranted, Keller said. However, “the current events have not been changing very quickly in this campaign season, let me tell you,” he said. “There’s definitely room for change and improv.”

The Kinseys are scheduled to perform “I Wanna Be a Republican” through Oct. 29. After that, Keller said, he’s uncertain. “It depends on who wins,” he said. “If Kerry wins, I think the show will be a little too gloaty to do. If Bush wins, we could potentially keep this show going. But it might be too depressing to do that. “I think this show will probably die on election day.”

Even though the show is full of drag kitsch, Keller said it masks talent audiences might not be aware of. “Even if they understand we’re going to be singing, they don’t expect us to be singing as well as we do,” said Keller, who had performed in the Sacramento Opera. “That’s the big compliment we get from people.” Indeed, the quartet won the Drama Desk Award for best lyrics for one of its shows.
Half of the group’s songs are parody and the other half are original music, Keller said. The performance is made for audience interaction and improvisation, he said. One character may start making balloon animals, or Keller — as the redheaded Winnie — might educate the audience about rolling over their 401(k) retirement plans. “Each of the characters have broad brush strokes, but they also have subtleties,” said Keller, 44. “You’re never entirely certain what they’re going to say to each other or how they’ll react.”
In the early days of the group, it took a long time to get each man into makeup, wig and dress for their female alter ego. “We do it kind of in our sleep now. We get into the dressing room and we go into our makeup trance,” he said. “We can be in costume and ready to go in an hour. “We’re not pretty girls, and that makes it easier.”
Keller is a University of Chicago-trained lawyer, and former director of the AIDS legal referral panel of the San Francisco Bay area. He is the author of Chicago’s gay rights ordinance, passed into law in 1989. He is one of two former attorneys in the group. “It’s our deep, dark secret,” he said. Ironically, Keller came from a family of musicians. “When I went to law school, I was the black sheep of the family,” he said. “Now that I’m touring with this show, it’s a hilarious return to what was imagined for me.”

Posted by acapnews at October 14, 2004 9:49 PM