Last week Buddies in Badtimes hosted a media preview for Director Alistair Newton’s Of A Monstrous Child: A Gaga Musical. It was a beautiful sunny Thursday late evening so I served up a cocktail for James and I to enjoy before running down the street for the much anticipated final show of the Buddies season.
Mr. Newton has been working on this project for some time now. Last summer during the Pride Festival I made certain to visit his Monstrous Ball. Through this club party he was able to showcase elements of the show which allowed me to piece together its final transformation and big final reveal on stage.
The cabaret was packed and a buzz with excitement as guests enjoyed pre-theatre refreshers. Shortly before 8pm critics and the who’s who in Toronto’s theatre scene spilled into the space. Just as the lights dimmed the audience roared, hooted and hollered. A lively bunch.
I mulled about the show during the performance, chit chatted about it afterwards and took two days to let the content rest with me before pulling up my chair and tapping my fingertips across my keyboard. Alistair has done an excellent job at using Lady Gaga as a subject for the discussion of fame and its impact on celebrity, fandom and borrowed influence. The show is by no means a Mamma Mia style ABBA musical, rather it offers up a darker take on the creatures which live within her realm of power and projection.
Inspired by an essay Lady Gaga wrote while studying at NYU, Of A Monstrous Child chronicles an encounter between one of her obsessed fans (played by Lil Monster, Tyson James) and performance legend Leigh Bowery (Broadway star Bruce Dow). The iconic Bowery gives a crash course in the history of queer performance, trotting out a virtual who’s who of artists, academics and celebrities whose work has been appropriated by our Mother Monster.
Highlights of the show include stunning set design (a coffin filled with roses and a stoic podium), witty narrative (those insufferable hipsters) and a stand out emotional performance delivered by Kyle Travis Young. Throughout the show we encounter Madonna, Bjork, Yoko Ono, Boy George, Elton John, Andy Warhol and Marina Abramovic. A whimsical and humorous look at the pop stars and underground art world icons which have helped create the personality we now refer to as Gaga.
I’ve always been enamoured with those who make daring choices. While I’ve had my own phases which included absolutely oddball haircuts and questionable wardrobe decisions I wouldn’t place myself in a category of avante garde. While Lady Gaga’s fame is an excellent study for the wild, wacky and queer, Alistair’s show made me think about those today who are taking the most risks and inspiring us to take chances.
I suppose having the courage and empowerment to dress however you feel is perhaps the most freeing and liberating experience we can hope for. Fashion thrills and the Fame Game.