Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Jonny Woo: Glitter In The Groove at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Jonny Woo: Glitter In The Groove at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Jonny Woo: Glitter In The Groove
Created by Jonathan Wooster
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 9/5/15 at 9:30 p.m. 

Jonny Woo, born Jonathan Wooster, trained at the University of Birmingham in Drama and Theatre Arts and at the London Contemporary Dance School. Despite his good-looking, statuesque demeanor and long legs, the doors of dance did not open for him. To survive, he took jobs in retail and telesales. Bored and frustrated, he moved from London to New York where he performed in the downtown club and burlesque scene (The Slipper Room & Dixon Place) from 2000-2003. After meeting Lavinia Co-op  (of the performance troupe Bloolips), he took his first tentative steps to performing in drag. After returning to London, he found a job DJing at The George and Dragon. From there it was a short hop to Bistrotheque, where he hosted the hugely popular "Tranny Talent" and "Tranny Lip Synching" competitions. He has been a resident at The Soho Theatre, having presented 8 shows there including Night Of A Thousand Jay Astons, Stark Dallas Naked, and International Woman Of Mr. E. He has had work commissioned by The Royal Opera House, The Institute of Contemporary Arts and The Royal Festival Hall. He is currently touring his project TRANS(former), a rock show based on the music from Lou Reed's album Transformer. In 2009, Jonny Woo wrote his first single "Faggot" with Jenny Fairfax, which he performed in this show. He is known for introducing alternative drag to mainstream audiences. Together with friends, Jonny Woo opened a bar in December 2014 called The Glory, which has been described as a "Queer haunt, nightlife spot, and performance mecca." 

Jonny Woo's outrageous looks on stage have included baby doll dresses, Mickey Mouse gloves, tar and feathers, and wigs of every color (including green). In this show, Glitter In The Groove, things were a bit more tame. All we got was a skit where he used boxing gloves to create the illusion of his having breasts. It is hard to know what to make of Jonny Woo. I was completely unfamiliar with his past achievements and was immediately turned off by his use of the word "fucking" in almost every sentence. He didn't do a good job of introducing himself (except to tell us he was not Chinese) and told no jokes worth recording or remembering. I would remind him that despite all he has accomplished, you are only as good as your last show. Still, after mixing tongue-twisters, rap and spoken word with original satirical and personal songs, and the occasional lip sync, I began to recognize I was in the presence of a very talented, charismatic performer with a unique style of his own. He put on a very eclectic show with one song about a gay boy coming on to an uninterested married man ("someone was flirting; was it him or was it me") and another in which he performed as many characters singing "At The End Of The Day" from Les Miserables. He also performed "Glitter In The Groove," a song celebrating his long involvement as a drag performer.

My two favorite numbers were "Faggot," which really hit the right notes with respect to anti-gay rhetoric and the homophobia that lies behind it, and "Don't Google Me Mother" ("because there are some things that a mother's not supposed to see"), which could become a new anthem for our modern age. The appreciative audience went wild and began singing along because they identified with the sentiment revealed in the all-too-true lyrics. In the end, the Pearly Queen Of Woo won over the audience and left us wanting to see more! Jonny Woo's performance art is seductive and sophisticated. 

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