Going On a Weekend Gender Bender
Sometimes you don’t have to leave town to be let loose. I had a gender-bending weekend, right here in my hometown of Minneapolis the third week of February. First was an all-female cast in Shakespeare’s "Two Gentlemen of Verona" at the Jungle Theater, and then a Happy Hour Drag Brunch at Hell’s Kitchen, where the men were the divas.
Nina DiAngelo (Jamie Olsen) as Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis.
I didn’t plan this sociological adventure, it’s just proof that the lines between masculine and feminine are blurring. Which is perhaps why franchises should consider doing away with those outdated separate ladies’ and men’s rooms and convert them to solo versions of one-stall fits all.
In Shakespeare’s day, men played all the roles, which is why the love scenes were rarely sealed with a kiss. After the first few minutes of my companion asking, “which one is the guy?”, it ceased to matter as the magic of the live performance took over. I was, however, a little suspicious that the dog might have been a male, but the only thing pointing in that direction was its name: Bear.
The following day’s 3 p.m. drag performance was too late for brunch and too early for happy hour, so it became both. A nod to the men who are women?
It is amazing what contouring make-up, wigs, padding, industrial-strength pantyhose and the right amount of nip and tucking can do to turn a man into a diva. Lots of bling and ruffled boas help, too, but even when they stripped down to sequined body suits, every woman in the audience would have killed to look that good in a thong. And when the performers waved their arms—no triceps were swaying to the beat.
Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston were just a few of the guest performers. This being my first drag show, I had forgotten that they lip sync to recordings of live performances, but it made sense. After all, they had to stay in character while audience members stood like meerkats waiting to hand over a dollar bill in exchange for eye contact or a peck on the cheek.
Nina DiAngelo (Jamie Olsen) was Babs, Bette Midler, Cher and the mistress of ceremony who worked the crowd for laughs. It took a moment to reconcile the deep voice and masculine stride with the Streisand on stage whose long fingernails kept smoothing her bobbed wig out of her face. Way too much fun for a Sunday during Lent.
The show originally was part of a Minneapolis night club, Gay 90s, but the performers left to find better working conditions. Once a month during a four-month trial, they’ll perform at Hell’s Kitchen, and since the March show sold out before the February show was even staged, I’m confident it’s a good fit.
Besides brunch served during the two-hour show, there are return visits to the 35-foot bloody Mary bar where you can add endless toppings, from toasted cheese sandwiches to bacon to your drink.
So what’s the take-home for franchises? If you find your sales lagging on the weekend, maybe you can add a drag show, a 35-foot bloody Mary bar and a really top-notch brunch.
And if you do it right, it will pad the bill to the same degree as Dolly Parton’s chest.