DIR: Kelly Sane, 1997, USA,35mm, 100 min.
Who says the movie musical is dead? Who ever does,
better not be in earshot of Rita Page, former Vegas
showgirl and diva stage mother to Franchesca Page
who has just landed the understudy role in the new
disco revue "The Lady Does It All." Unfortunately
Franchesca does it all...badly. So how did she get
the part? Could she be an unwitting victim in a plot
to make some fast money for the sadistic producer
Veronica, or has fate finally brought Mama the break
she always deserved?
If you combine THE PRODUCERS with PRISCILLA and
bring GYPSY along for the ride, you've got it. With
nine original songs, dance numbers galore and a cast
of divas including Rossy de Palma and New York
underground sensation Varla Jean Merman a.k.a. Jeff
Robertson, come on and camp, vamp and even tramp
your way to fame with FRANCHESCA PAGE.
Dressed for excess
Cable queen Rhonda Shear meets drag diva Varla Jean Merman onstage at the
Bourbon Street Awards, which Merman has 'femmceed' for the past four years.
The 32nd annual Bourbon Street Awards Show costume contest takes place on
Mardi Gras, starting about 2 p.m. at the corner of Burgundy and St. Ann
streets in New Orleans' French Quarter. Hundreds of contestants in
spectacular, eye-popping drag vie for 17 trophies in what has arguably
become the most famous drag-queen contest in the country.
The show is emceed by Varla Jean Merman, a cross-dressing diva who has been
the event's ``Grand Mistress of Ceremonies'' for the past four years. Merman
maintains that an astronaut told her last year "that my hair and the Great
Wall of China were the only two man-made structures visible from outer space
with the naked eye.''
Wood Enterprises has handled the contest since 1974, when Tom Wood bought
Cafe Lafitte in Exile, one of the city's best-known gay bars. The Wood
empire also includes the Rawhide on Burgundy and St. Ann streets, where the
contest moved 10 years ago. ``By staging it there, more viewers were able to
see the show,'' Wood said. "It's a showcase for a lot of clever work. And
besides, where are those drag queens gonna go?''
STEPHEN GRECO: The last time we spoke you were leaving
for Cannes. What did you do there?
SHERRY VINE: I have a small part in this movie called Francesca
Page, which stars Rossy de Palma-- in her first lead in an
American film-- and [drag chanteuse] Varla Jean Merman. They were
showing the movie in Cannes and they had a huge party for it,
where I performed.
SG: What was Cannes like?
SV: It was great, but it wasn't what I thought tt was gonna be. I
thought it was going to be like what you see on TV. Oh, excuse me
Sigourney; Oh, sorry, Sharon.
SG: You thought it was going to be all stars
plus Steve Kmetko.
SV: Yeah, I'm still naive.
SG: So what was Cannes like really?
SV: The biggest star I saw was Varla Jean Merman.
SG: Did you appear as Sherry?
SV: Oh, yeah.
SG: What did you wear?
SV: Marc Happel, who makes all the costumes for our plays, made
this unbelievable couture dress that I wore for the party. It was
kind of Galliano-inspired, with a rock-'n'-roll twist. It was
SG: Is it hard to travel with costumes?
SV: [Laughs] You have to squeeze everything in. Your wig always
gets flat. And I have these seven-inch silver spike heels. I
always, always get stopped, because in the x-ray they look like
SG: Tell me about Tell Tale.
SV: At first we were describing it as a takeoff of the Edgar Allen
Poe and the Dorian Corey story, but it's really not. It's inspired
by those two, but it's not a parody. It's a comedy thriller.
SG: I love the fact that Theater Couture's productions
are always reflect well-thought-out irony and humor.
SV: Well, the writers are very smart. The wit is a little more
sophisticated, a little deeper, a little more three-dimensional.
This show is a big step for us. Charlie was full of pop culture
icons and references, and this one doesn't have that. This one is
more theatrical. It has a lot of live, special effects, and
puppetry that Basil Twist does. It's a little darker. It's not so
much, Hi, this is Sherry Vine in June, 1997. It's got some
different periods mixed in-- like the 1940s film noir, and the
Hitchcock mystery of who's double-crossing who. It's a little more
of that high dramatic glamor. And we're like, OK, are people going
to enjoy this as much?
SG: You've built a big reputation by presenting quality
material-- and I think your audience is willing to go
SV: I hope so. I think so. Lucrezia was the same thing-- a period
piece with nothing to people to relate to, in terms of popular
references, and that seemed to go well.
SG: What's your favorite gesture you get to do in
SV: In this show I have a lot of the back of the hand to the
forehead-- you know, very Veronica Lake. A lot of those gestures,
and posing. Lots of circles, no lines.
SG: What do you mean, "circles, no lines"?
SV: I move in circles, no straight lines,
SG: And what's your favorite costume you get to wear in
SV: It's all in keeping with moving in circles. Everything I'm
wearing is very flowy, sheer, chiffon-- very light.
SG: So it'll be a cool kind of show.