Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 48- RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10 Preview

Bring on the 10s! Flower Tortilla and Whendy Whaxwood are here with me to preview the cast of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10! We go over each of the 14 queens and reveal our winner picks!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And be sure to leave us a 5 star review!

And if you're feeling like giving more, consider becoming a patron of the website at!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Drag365: Show #65- Clarice Explains It All at ICON

Clarice DuBois // photo by Michael Block
Day: Tuesday, March 6th     

Show: Clarice Explains It All

Location: ICON

Queens Seen: Clarice DuBois (@claricedubois), Nicole Onoscopi (@nicoleonoscopi)

Nicole Onoscopi // photo by Michael Block
Each month at ICON, Clarice DuBois takes the stage for a variety show and her attempt to explain something. And this month, Clarice delivered on both accounts. The monthly variety show, Clarice Explains It All, is a celebration of the talent pool in New York City through the lens of a drag show. For her March show, Clarice welcomed emerging drag queen Nicole Onoscopi and comedian Cameron Jefts. Clarice, a self-proclaimed Broadway queen, dazzled the crowd with her tribute to Liza with "New York, New York" and "Journey to the Past," but it was her new French mix, which featured Mika, that had me tickled pink. Nicole made herself known to the crowd as she handed out business cards with her information to "Call Me Maybe" and then shocked and awed with her colonoscopy mix. Who doesn't love watching a drag queen try to fist themselves? Cameron decided to share with the audience what a potential live action Pokemon movie might look like as a created some hybrid celebrity pocket creatures. When it came down to the portion of the show where Clarice had to explain something, it was up to her to explain public transit. Perhaps her improv skills were in play but she sold us a story about the dreadful MTA that I think must people were buying.
Every month at ICON, Clarice DuBois explains it all. What "it" is? Well, you'll just have to show up and see! It's always a pleasure to see the variety of talent that NYC has to offer.

Block Talk- Episode 47: Marti Gould Cummings

She's a star of stage and screen and the voice of a generation. It's Marti Gould Cummings! We talk about some of her many shows in NYC, why it's important for her to give opportunities to emerging queens, and why drag IS political!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And leave us a 5 star review while you're there!

And consider becoming a patron of TITN by visiting

Drag365: Show #64- Magical Mondays at ICON

Boudoir LeFleur // photo by Michael Block
Day: Monday, March 5th     

Show: Magical Mondays

Location: ICON

Queens Seen: Boudoir LeFleur (@drag.witchbitch), Jessie James (@jessiejamesnyc), Amelia Reasons (@ameliareaons92), Sherry Poppins (@its.sherrypoppins)

Amelia Reasons // photo by Michael Block
Every Monday night at ICON, the witchy one, Boudoir hosts Magical Mondays. Bringing dark magic and hair whips with her giant 80s curls, Boudoir dances the house down until she can no longer stand. Spoiler alert, she's on the floor seconds into the night. As the official Roombo of Drag, Boudoir provides a night of endless entertainment as she performs some non-typical genres for a drag show including a Heart medley and a Prince mix. Joining in on the fun on this magical evening, Boudoir welcomed a wickedly talented cast of characters. Visiting all the way from Orlando, Jenny Reverent got the crowd going with two burlesque numbers, one of which was a Winnifred Sanderson strip. If you ever wondered what Winnie wore underneath all those layers, Jenny broke the surprise. Jessie James, bowler gap and all, dazzled the crowd with her Pokemon mix that reveals her name. The true darling of the night was Amelia Reasons, who made her second appearance in drag ever. She dazzled the crowd with her Gaga dance mix. The other star of the show was drunk Mary Kerry, as Boudoir labeled her. She was a drunk straight woman who couldn't keep her hands off the hostess and loved to stop the show dead in its tracks. It's likely that Boudoir's Gypsy mix, which featured an indragneto cameo from Sherry Poppins, cast a spell on her as Mary Kerry was never heard from again.
While the energy may be low in between songs as Boudoir attempts to catch her breath on the floor, the energy is supreme as she makes every nook and cranny of the venue hers. If she hasn't thrown herself up against it, she hasn't found it yet. If you're looking for a home cleaning service, I suggest you call Boudoir, put on some music, and watch her clean your home as she sweeps the floor to the beat of the music.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: A Letter to An Unlikely Duo

By Michael Block

History plays a large part in our present. It can affect who were are as people, but it also has the power to unite and bring people together. In A Letter to Harvey Milk, with book by Ellen M. Schwartz, Cheryl Stern, Laura I. Kramer, and Jerry James, music by Laura I. Kramer, lyrics by Ellen M. Schwartz, and additional lyrics by Cheryl Stern, a widower begins a writing class taught by a young woman who opens up his eyes to a history he's repressed. A captivating concept inspired by a shorty story by Leslea Newman, A Letter to Harvey Milk is one of those musicals that just has a little too much happening at once.
Harry Weinberg is a widower living in 1986 San Francisco. After the spirit of his deceased wife urges him to get out of the house to allow his depression and heartbreak to subside, he finds himself in a Jewish heritage writing class taught by Barbara Katsef, a young woman who found herself in California via the East Coast. One of his class assignments is to write a letter to someone who has passed. Rather than writing it to his wife, he writes it to Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay political leader in California. This single assignment opens up a bound between a very unlikely pair brought together by the past. Written with a classic sensibility, A Letter to Harvey Milk is a haunting story that tries to achieve a bit too much all at once. And this is proven by the most powerful twist at the end of the show that doesn't rear much significance any earlier. The work of fiction happens to showcase the power of plot cohesion. The way the story is presented, Harry and Barbara's friendship is strengthened by their individual connections to Harvey Milk. While he is an essential and historic figure, it's simply too coincidental, especially when the basis of the writing class and the twist at the end is centered around an incredibly powerful moment in Jewish history. Coincidence aside, there is still a lot going on in this not-so-brisk ninety-minute musical. Between a jilted ghost of wife, flashbacks upon flashbacks, slapstick comedy bits, and arresting sentimental moments, stylistically, A Letter to Harvey Milk is all over the place. The heart and soul of the show is not the titular person. It's the connection between an older Jewish gentleman and younger lesbian woman. In 1986 San Francisco, this might be unfathomable. But that is the draw into this show. Having the historical context of Harvey Milk and his power and the Holocaust certainly fulfills clues into Harry and Barbara's backstory, but when you introduce them in the manner that they are, you almost feel jilted that they're not the center of the show. The book writing team gives you snapshots of Harvey Milk through his interactions with Harry, a former kosher butcher, and through narratives of his untimely demise. And yet, if you took the character out of the show, the show can still truck along. The dialogue occasionally does have that forced, over-the-top feel that seeps into the lyrics from time to time. Though you can forgive some of those hokey lyrics when you have such a sweeping sound. The score from Laura I. Kramer is sweet, elevated by the orchestrations from Ned Paul Ginsberg.
photo by Russ Rowland
Quite possibly the biggest triumph of A Letter to Harvey Milk is its representation of a queer woman in a musical. The character of Barbara is astonishing and Julie Knitel's performance is spectacular. Knitel has a flawless vocal. It's pristine and joyous. Her presence as Barbara is strong, yet amiable. She gives off that essence of pure desire to learn more. Julie Knitel truly gives a remarkable performance. As Harry, Adam Heller floats through the show. There aren't much, if any, levels to the character. Harry is solemn and content who doesn't really like to disrupt the status quo.  Heller has a fine voice, but his performance truly comes to life late in the show with the big twist. In order for the musical to not be a complete downer of a drama, Frannie Weinberg is inserted as the comic relief. Cheryl Stern brings a classic sense of comedy to Frannie. She's loud and abrasive who has a comment for everything. She's a walking stereotype that delivers the laughs. Point fingers toward the writing and direction, it does seem as if she is a part of a different play. While the majority of the ensemble took on spotlight moments, Jeremy Greenbaum as Yussl gave a powerful performance in the flashback. The look of fear and desperation in his eyes allowed the story to stop and become authentic and raw. You could feel the terror Greenbaum's Yussl was experiencing.
With an exuberant amount of history to unpack in a single musical, director Evan Pappas opted for the less is more strategy. With the assistance of the idyllic set designed by David L. Arsenault, Pappas was able to move the story along with minimal pieces. If you had any doubts where the story took place, look up at stage left and the architecture of San Francisco was alive and well. Debbi Hobson's costume design was evocative of the time.
It's safe to say that perhaps the source material may be flawed for adapting it into a stage musical. A Letter to Harvey Milk tells an important narrative. It's just the execution that is a little lacking. For those longing for a nostalgic style of theater, A Letter to Harvey Milk will certainly fulfill that. It's unfortunate how dated the show feels against the current landscape of musical theater.

Block Talk- Episode 46: RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3 RuCap Episode 8

It was a wrecking ball of a season and Misty Mountains and I are here to break it down for ya! Did the right queen win?

To listen to the episode, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And be sure to subscribe today!

And visit to become a patron today!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review: How to Succeed in Topping Yourself

By Michael Block 

It's hard to top yourself. Just ask any of the twinks in Hells Kitchen, Paige Turner might say. Double entendre aside, when you're a seasoned artist with hit after hit, you might think the next one will be the one that flops. Yet somehow Paige Turner continues to defy the odds with her latest smash, Drag Me to the Top. After a stint in Puerto Vallarta and Boston, Paige brings the show home to the Laurie Beechman Theater for a two-month Wednesdays residency.
photo by Michael Block
Think of Drag Me to the Top as a potential future pilot of the Paige Turner universe. The concept of the show follows Paige after she stumbles upon a handy dandy rule book that will make her a star. In this hour-long comedy romp, Paige discovers how to be the star that she knows she already is. Laced with sugary covers of showtunes, pop songs, and entendre after entendre that keeps the gays "yas-ing," Drag Me to the Top is the full package. Whether it's your first time or your fortieth time seeing Paige, she ensures that you know exactly what she's about to bring. With a Queen opener, sung through the audience, Paige smartly and comically alerts the audience that this is her show and to not stop her now because she's having a good time. From there, she's off to the races. The set list Paige infuses is a wonderful blend of classics, Broadway standards, and pop ditties, all of which have a coloration to the themes of the rule book. They don't feel forced, but appropriately fitting. Rather than sprinkling in a plot through line, Paige makes the story a driving force that carries the show from start to finish. There's nothing extravagant about it. It's simple and straightforward. And that's all it needed to be. When an idea is smartly conceived, it allows the execution to be flawless. And that it was. Paige brings a great comfort in this performance. She scattered some fan favorite numbers amongst some fresh material, but no matter what she sings, she exudes a confidence that is insatiable. She always turns out some impressive costumes, but when you're able to rock out in a robe in a fabric of your own cartoons, you know you've landed on the top. And kudos to Gloria Swansong for the impressive costumes, seen twice in the show.
She jokes about being polarizing in the show, and later sings a number about being a good person. Regardless of where you fall on the "off the stage" spectrum, Paige Tuner has the stuff that legends are made of. Drag Me to the Top should be launch pad to the next level. There is an untapped medium that deserves Paige Turner. Spend an entire first season watching Paige try to drag herself to the top. Introduce the whacky characters she's brought out in her other shows. I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until the universe obliges, give her a webseries. Hell, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, whoever is listening, option this star while you still can.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Drag365: Show #63- Drag Brunch at La Pulperia

Ritzy Bitz, Nicole Onoscopi, Rose // photo by Michael Block
Day: Sunday, March 4th           

Show: Drag Brunch   

Location: La Pulperia

Queens Seen: Ritzy Bitz (@msritzybitz), Nicole Onoscopi (@nicoleonscopi), Rosé (@rosewithanaccent)

It's Sunday morning. What do most millennials do in NYC? Go to brunch! But rather than just a typical, boring, average brunch. Why not go to brunch where there's a show! Every Sunday at their Hell's Kitchen restaurant, La Pulperia hosts a drag brunch with the one and only Ritzy Bitz. Ritzy is eager to jumpstart your day as you sip on your endless mimosas and eat your delicious entrees. Joining her on this particular Sunday was Rosé and Nicole Onoscopi. This show marked the official first booking for Nicole, a rising drag baby on the scene. So what makes a drag brunch different from a typical drag show? The sun is out. Just because it's daytime doesn't mean the performers will hold anything back. Curse words will fly and raunchiness is in full throttle. But it's not like the table of sixteen-year-old girls haven't been exposed to any of this before! Ritzy has an infectious hosting ability. Her biting "don't give a fuck" attitude is just right for this crowd. They live and laugh along. She caters to the needs and desires of the brunch crowd providing them with mixes and songs that fit the Broadway and Top 40 boxes, while still putting her own flair within. There aren't many things better than Ritzy's "Do It Alone" mix. With the Chicago tuner as the skeleton, Ritzy drops in some iconic dance hooks that get the crowd bopping about. When she relinquished the spotlight to her special guests, both Rosé and Nicole brought their own unique brand of kooky. Rosé served the crowd her classic numbers including her "Bad Singer" mix and her "Mama" mix. Nicole, branded as a Disney Channel reject queen by the girls at the front table, gave some Hannah Montana "Rockstar" as well as her insanely funny "disability" mix and her "colonoscopy" mix.
Drag Brunches are a dime a dozen nowadays. But a good, well-rounded drag brunch? That may be like finding a needle in a haystack. Luckily La Puperia and Ritzy Bitz are a match made in heaven. You need a little spice and a little kick to pair with their menu and boy does Ritzy deliver! You're certain to have a lot of fun as this is breakfast theater at its finest.

Drag365: Show #62: SLAY Saturdays at Hardware

Ruby Roo // photo by Michael Block
Day: Saturday, March 3rd               

Show: SLAY Saturdays   

Location: Hardware

Queens Seen: Lagoona Bloo (@lagoonabloonyc), Ruby Roo (@rubyrubyroo)

Lagoona Bloo // photo by Michael Block
Who doesn't like a party? Every Saturday night at Hardware, Lagoona Bloo and Ruby Roo host SLAY Saturdays, a dance party like no other. The room is filled with haze and the beats, from the amazing DJ 2 Face, are pulsating. There's sweat dripping off of bouncing bodies. The dance floor is a home to those ready to let loose and wiggle until their heart's content. Rather than back to back shows, Ruby and Lagoona mingle with the kids and turn the party with pop up shows. There's something about nostalgia that seems to work wonders here at SLAY. Lagoona danced the night away with some Britney Spears and "Fergalicious." Ruby took on a little Panic at the Disco with "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" firmly planting herself on the stage and serving emo pop. You can bet nearly every single person in that room knew the lyrics. Their individual energies are exactly what an event like this needs.
Dancing isn't for everyone. But sometimes you need to blow off some steam. So when dancing is on the menu, look no further than Hardware on a Saturday night. At SLAY Saturdays, you get dancing and a show. What can be better than that?

Block Talk- Episode 45: Robyn Banks

In this episode of Block Talk, I chat with Robyn Banks about everything Jawbreaker, her new album!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And be sure to leave a 5 star review!

And visit to help boost the podcast!

Drag365: Show #61: Bosom Buddies at The Laurie Beechman Theater

Darienne Lake, Mrs. Kasha Davis // photo by Michael Block
Day: Saturday, March 3rd               

Show: Bosom Buddies   

Location: Laurie Beechman Theater

Queens Seen: Darienne Lake (@dariennelake), Mrs. Kasha Davis (@mrskashadavis)

*Disclaimer: So in case you didn't know, I'm a theater critic. That's my primary job in the biz. As opportunities came, I got to introduce drag and cabaret into my repertoire. I'm excited that I am now able to mix the mediums together where I can bring my typical theatrical criticism into the world of nightlife. For shows that I see at the Beechman, my full review will be the source of criticism but I'll still include the show in Drag365. I will include a pull quote to the review along with the link to the full review.

Bosom Buddies is a feel-good cabaret lead by two seasoned pros. If you strive for that nostalgic sense of performance, Mrs. Kasha Davis and Darienne Lake are certain to deliver. They stay in their wheelhouse for a night you won't want to miss.

To read the full review, click here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: An Ambitious Look at Gun Violence

By Ed Malin

On my block, in Brooklyn, there is a car with the bumper sticker "Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target". The vehicle has Florida plates.  With school shootings and other massacres so often in the news, I have wondered what kind of person would persist in such bumper sticker philosophy, and what I would say to them if we ever met.
Shooter is a play by Sam Graber, directed by Katrin Hilbe.  This non-linear production has been developed by the WorkShop Theater. Its current home at Theater Lab is a stage (designed by Sarah Edkins) decked out in extreme whiteness, with some surfaces covered in silver. Timely as the topic of gun violence may be, I was looking forward to seeing a play which might take on the sometimes complex motivations of a shooter as well as the devastating impact on the community.  It's not an easy play to write. "Shooter" features a disgruntled, white, male, American-born gunman (so we are not bogged down in any other ethnic stereotypes).  Otherwise, I got a little overwhelmed by the details of the story as it was presented near the beginning of the run.  The play is replete with very bright lighting effects (designed by Cheyenne Sykes) and sinister sound effects (designed by Andy Evan Cohen), which are part of an artistic vision that is apparently trying to show us all the pervasive threats in our world.  We may be looking inside Jim's head (he's the one they, and he himself, call "Shooter"), as given to us in a ricochet-type chronology. Here's what I was able to piece together:
As the play opens, a shooting range instructor named Troy (Michael Gnat) tells us a little bit of what we are about to witness.  Troy has a serious moustache and through his quite wonderful performance seems to represent the antiquated nature of certain beliefs about guns. Then, we find out that Jim (Ean Sheehy) is in police custody, that there has been a school shooting, and that his old friend and lawyer, Ben-David (David Perez-Ribada) has rushed in to help.  Jim's other old friend, Alan (CK Allen) also appears on the scene.  In the rush of dialogue, including admonitions to Jim (don't talk to anyone) and to Alan (I told you not to come), plus interludes with seemingly contradictory calls to 9-1-1 and a chorus of offstage actors vocalizing gunshot sounds, it's easy to miss one or two fleeting references to someone named Gavin.  We do meet Gavin (Nicholas-Tyler Corbin), unexpectedly, at the 2/3 point in the play, or just before the act break that would have greatly helped this production, had it been included.  Who is the dark, laconic, teenaged Gavin? The namesake of the play! But let's try to fill in what the production leads us to believe it is about it until we meet its crucial character.
photo by Carol Rosegg
No one likes Jim, including Jim himself. While the friends of his youth have landed respectable careers and have moved to the ostentatious side of the lake, Jim has suffered the indignity of having his wife and daughter walk out on him. Whatever Jim did for work, he isn't doing it anymore.  At some point, Jim shows up at a fancy party for his ex-wife, to which he was not invited, and is ejected after his former buddies remove the gun Jim brought along. Another time, when Jim in contemporary survival camouflage (costumes designed by Cathy Small) accosts Ben-David in a parking lot, he justifiably receives this diss: "I'm telling everybody from here on out, all my colleagues, the entire legal system: THIS GUY NEVER GETS HELP."  CK Allen and David Perez-Ribada as Jim's upwardly-mobile friends deliver very believable performances which help move the play along. Jim may not have a logical reason for shooting lessons, but he does tell it to us in great detail.  Jim knows what it used to mean, in his father's day, to be a man.  Jim wants to be a man, though as we see him in action with Troy, Jim is a terrible shooter. It looks like another sad, ill-advised tale of an ineffectual white dude. And then along came Gavin.
The handful of scenes with Gavin change everything. Suddenly, and going against everything else we have seen in the play, we are asked to believe that Jim is a hero.  Jim, and other licensed gun holders like him, could they be what's preventing bad shooters from making things even worse? I hope this play gives you the chance to examine this issue in greater detail.
Jim's heroic nature (and longing for traditional manhood in general) certainly surprised me. Any time Jim began a monologue, it struck me as rather inarticulate.  One time, he is explaining to Gavin how a modern man needs to be EXTRA-LARGE.  The only thing more awkward than this statement was Gavin's response, apropos of nothing, that he was planning to shoot up a school. Are we to take Jim's insecure musings as the inspiration for Gavin's bloodlust?  Does Jim rescue the school children (including his own daughter) from Gavin's misguided interpretation of Jim's interpretation of his father's manliness? On the other hand, who else in the fictional world of this play is going to help? You can't outrun a bullet, of course, unless you believe the entertainment industry.  Troy teaches marksmanship, and otherwise keeps his distance from consequences. Nice, he muses, is a city in France.  He even seems (wisely or otherwise) to fear that if he knows about any planned shooting, he would be tangentially responsible. Isn't he, though? Why would the world need more pistol-packing vigilantes as opposed to fewer shooting ranges? In this play, a successful urologist who doubts himself tells us that men confess their insecurities to him on the examining table. While the set does sport some fine mirrors, we could all go home and look in our own. That ought to be a good place to start.

Review: Telling His Story and Wanting a Second Chance

By Ed Malin

The East Village Playhouse, the new home of The City Kids Foundation, is an intimate space where you can catch the amazing one-man show A Brooklyn Boy.  Moises Roberto Belizario, former Artistic Director of City Kids, directs Steven Prescod in a story which includes dozens of voices and much vibrant dancing.   Book, Music and Lyrics are by Belisario and Prescod, with inspiration drawn from Prescod's childhood in Brooklyn.
The show includes vocal recordings by Alyson Brown, Clinton "Isaiah" Graves III, Ben Joseph, and Cenophia Mitchell, and additional music by Anjelica Dorman, Terrance James, Ernest Lewis, and Ben Vernon.
At a political rally, Steven asks why people are sitting down instead of protesting in the streets.  To answer this question, we go back in time to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in 1990.  A memorable party is happening, and Kathy, the fifteen year-old host, is romanced by the smooth-talking Jamaican, GT (the man with the gold chain).  We see Steven, as both Cathy and GT, dance with himself.  These characters are his parents, and Steven is born soon after.  His father promises he will get ten jobs and stand by his mother (who wonders if he can get one job).  It looks like a beautiful life has begun, but, as Steven tells the story, his father had a temper and soon was incarcerated.  Steven meets his father years later, on a visit to jail, after growing up with his wonderful mother and vivacious Caribbean relatives.
Hip-hop storytelling brings Steven's childhood to life.  For his fifth birthday, Steven gets a party at Chuck E. Cheese's.  However, the big rat is scary, just like the ones on the street.  For his sixth birthday, he gets a bike, which is a great joy to ride with training wheels.  His mother takes the training wheels off, and although Steven isn't ready, he takes a risk in order to learn.  This touching scene is backed by the song "Mama Don't Let Me Go".
As Steven grows older, he can bike around with new friends, some of whom are getting into trouble.  Steven doesn't want to "jux" unsuspecting people on the street, but if he doesn't, he fears the neighborhood will think he's a punk.  The story goes back and forth between some dangerous incidents (a gang fight in a bodega, his friend Kwame getting shot and ending up in a coma) and Steven's court date.  He is given a choice between 5 years probation and 7 years upstate.  The catch is, he has to explain to his mother, in court, what he did.  We see more reasons why Steven is thankful to be alive.  As he grows older, he sees grown men fighting his young friends, and a drunk white guy who menaces him (an opportunity to think about Jim Crow). Ultimately, his friends are happy to see him interning with an arts workshop (City Kids), which they refer to as that "Sammy Davis Jr. program"  No one should have to live in a world where cops expect to be thanked for not shooting you.  As the performance ends, Steven tells how he anonymously turned in to the police a gun which his friend left with him. Guided by religious role models (accompanied by the song "Receive My Praise"), Steven seeks to take himself out of the cycle of violence.
The energy in The East Village Playhouse is powerful indeed.  I didn't mind the tight seating arrangements, not when amazing dancing was happening right in front of my eyes.  Moises Roberto Belizario told the audience the story of this piece.  Not only did the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge enjoy an excerpt they saw a few years ago, the show has grown and will tour to Los Angeles and beyond.  In accordance with the mission of City Kids, I will post that young people are encouraged to see this show.  I have a few young New Yorkers I am telling about this fine production.
Steven Prescod's ability to sing, dance and play upwards of 30 roles for an hour is a joy to behold.