HomeDragapella Takes Vegas: An Interview With Kinsey Sicks

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Formed in 1993, when a group of friends dressed in drag to attend a Bette Midler concert, the Kinsey Sicks have since performed across the nation, in clubs, concert halls, at special events, on college campuses, on cruise ships and television. They have a loyal following from coast to coast. The four founders not only had musical talent, they also had backgrounds in law and activism, and that has continued to be a main influence in their shows. The current Kinseys are founder Irwin Keller (Winnie), founder Ben Schatz (Rachel), Chris Dilley (Trampolina) and Jeff Manabat (Trixie). Together, these dynamic singers, dressed in over-the-top drag, present social and political satire with hilarious lyrics and tight four-part harmonies.

But even with their years of performance, including the annual holiday tradition, “Oy Vey in a Manger,” the Las Vegas show is a new and exciting opportunity for Kinsey Sicks.

I recently had the pleasure to talk to Irwin “Winnie Kinsey” Keller and ask him about their Las Vegas experience.

CASA:  How has the show been going since opening night?

IRWIN “WINNIE KINSEY” KELLER:  The show has been going great. It's a perfect size Vegas showroom with a nice stage and great sound. Everything a girl could want. Plus we had a lot of friends, family and fans who traveled to celebrate our opening night with us along with the unsuspecting strangers.

CASA:  How did you prepare for the show? Is this a new show or a revamp of one of the great "oldies but goodies"?

KINSEY: This is a particularly fun show. We wrote it especially for Las Vegas. The premise is that it is our closing night and the Kinsey Sicks have been trying -- and failing -- to leave Las Vegas every day for ages. Needless to say, we once again fail. In it we get a chance to make fun of all sorts of things about Las Vegas: the stars, the gambling, the glitz. It includes some of our tried-and-true favorite songs, as well as some numbers developed particularly for this show. But we also manage to include thought provoking songs about gay marriage, tokenism, capitalism and global disarmament. Tall order, eh?


CASA:  Is it true you are just down the hall from Barry Manilow?


KINSEY:  Barry Manilow is indeed in the big showroom just down the hall. We haven't met him yet. We do, however, perform an unforgivably shameless and stomach-turning parody of "Copacabana", which tells the story of Rachel's grandparents meeting in a leper colony in Texarkana (don't ask). Barry hasn't heard it, although he's heard about it and we understand he's touched by our thoughtfulness.

CASA:  How did you land this gig?

KINSEY: For several years we've been working with some agents who had this idea for us. They brought us to Las Vegas several times to showcase for industry executives. We were happy that the Hilton (among other properties) thought that we had something new and interesting to offer Las Vegas.


CASA:  I understand you’ve been looking for understudies?


KINSEY:  It's always hard for us to find understudies. Just this week we hired a young talent from LA to learn the Rachel and Trampy roles. We're still looking (hear that? we're still looking!) for someone to do the Winnie and Trixie roles. We've had very talented people apply, but most of them are show singers who are not used to doing tricky a cappella harmonies. So you a cappella people should definitely send us your resumes! Luckily, looking pretty in a dress is not a requirement.

CASA:  How long do you expect this show to last?

KINSEY:  We're hoping to be running for a long, long time. At the very least we'll be here through the summer. Who knows, if it goes fabulously, we might launch a second company. Send in the clones!


CASA:  You also have some film projects in process? That sounds exciting!

  Yes, the film stuff is thrilling. There are two films in the works, both being made by Eyethink Pictures. The first is a filmed version of our long-running show, "I Wanna Be a Republican". We filmed it over two nights in San Francisco in January. It was supremely exciting - a 6 camera shoot, with a crew of 35, in front of a live audience. So much fun! We expect that one to rear its head this summer. The other film is a behind-the-scenes documentary that followed us through our first week in Las Vegas. Lots of struggle and rehearsal and bewilderment and dirt dirt dirt! I'd look for that one in early 2007. Oh -- and fun news -- cartoonist Bill Plympton is doing an animated opening sequence for that film.


CASA:  You certainly have a knack for making a cappella sexy and politically and socially charged. Do you have any advice for a cappella groups out there--in drag or not--for elevating their popularity or adding spark to their performance?

KINSEY:  Gosh, I don't know! We're lucky because what we do is an extension of who we are. We're kind of smart, we're very political, we're pretty funny and, okay, you're right, we're totally sexy. In other words, we never made a decision to be those things. We've merely made consistent decisions to be true to those things, and to let them bubble together. It is, after all, much easier for audiences to hear politics when the lyrics are funny (and you're dressed ridiculously).


Find out more about the Vegas show, the films, other upcoming gigs and anything else Kinsey by looking at www.kinseysicks.com!

Linda Hamilton is a writer in Oakland, CA. She sings with East Bay Harmony Chorus and at home with her husband the two sons, where the current favorite, "I've Been Working on the Railroad", may be heard repeatedly.