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THE IMPOSTERS

A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

Leslie Jordan


Fruit Fly

 


with support from The Supreme Fabulettes

 


Leicester Square Theatre


12 – 16 March 2013

The Lowry

18 March 2013

 

 

Once again The Supreme Fabulettes, whose second ever gig I also reviewed when they performed at Madam Jo Jo’s last year, dazzled the crowd for a too short half hour, with their glamorous gowns and fan-tabulous vocals as they moved seemingly, seamlessly, from Motown through Disco with plenty of bitchy love-hate banter in between. New (to me) lead singer Maddison Lee from Glasgow, impressed, not just with talk of deep fried Mars bars’ back home, but her handling of seminal classics like ‘Proud Mary’, rolling down the river, quivering, mini-skirt clad legs and all, alongside fellow songsters. Convincingly feminine, dark haired Cornish Vicki Vivacious smacking of Diane Ross and robustly philosophical, platinum blonde Vanilla Lush from Holland, who boasted she’d recently ‘gone down to a size 14.’ After watching an animation, rife with double bent jibes starring the group, in which they defeated evil Wigzilla, mega-scarfer of drag queen wigs, the ‘girls’ were back in sun glass inducing, glittering disco ball gowns with ‘One Night Only’ and ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ which they infused with atypical personality plus. Though, I’m ever hopeful of re-interpretations of favourite ‘death discs’ a la ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’ and that infamous, Imitation of Life reminiscent saga, ‘I Can Never Go Home Anymore’…Mama!

Which, brings us to Chattanooga’s inimitable gift to stage and screens large and small, Leslie Jordan, performing and reminiscing in nearly equal measures in his new show, Fruit-fly, dedicated to his seventy something mother, Miss Peggy Ann.  Jordan entertains and enlightens about the nuances of his coming out, career, family life, as it pertains to his mom and twin kid sisters, and fear of becoming his mother himself as he gets older, a phenomena many can relate to, including yours truly! A slew of family photos, many in 50’s tint, show boyish Jordan, under the Christmas tree, or holding his cousin’s hand, both of them scrubbed and brushed till they shone.

 

Leslie Jordan with his cousin, in an inflatable petticoat circa 1959
 

Comic remembrances about being the baby of the family, then not, when his twin sisters were born follow on from tales of Southern Baptist church outings and his mother’s psychosomatic illnesses, one of which caused one arm to ‘disobey’ her whenever he upset her. Jordan has a knack for occupying a stage entirely, and the only prop of sorts is a chair seating an invisible facsimile of who-ever he’s having a conversation with. But it’s very effectively used and it seems he’s not alone, which he isn’t, as the stage is filled with memories showcasing ‘real’ people Jordan has known.

Having seen and enjoyed Jordan’s one man, autobiographical show in the West End in 2011, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, I can confirm that’s it’s a pleasure listening to him talk about his life, sunshine and, shadows, as he has an uncanny knack for enabling his listeners to ‘see’ where he’s been.  Though I grew up in Philly, far from Jordan’s native Tennessee, I could relate to his talk of torpedo bras and ‘roach killers,’ both of which I’d seen bad girls flaunting in the ‘50’s, and being ‘dressed like a doll as a baby’, as we were both the babies of our families for a time in the day. One killer line, attributed to a trashy gal in his mother’s hairdressing salon when he was eight, ‘honey, terrorize my hair, don’t just tease it, I got a party tonight,’ is one he claimed a London cabdriver also yelled out to him in Piccadilly Circus one day – a sign he’d truly arrived!

While there’s no denying that great moments of humiliation, realization, tragedy and joy leave deep trails which are easily retraced, few entertainers have Jordan’s storytelling capabilities. His recreation of his eleven year old reaction to his father’s death in an air-crash gave pause to reflect on one’s own moments of loss, no mean feat, in light of the raucous laughter preceding that scene. With Jordan, however, everything he says feels personalized, as though he’s talking to you directly, so much of what he says hits the mark, oft resulting in laughter, true, but also, more importantly, empathy, whether you’re gay or straight, with little knowledge of other ways of life. For those categorizing themselves as the latter, this show may be something of an indoctrination, albeit an entertaining and accessible one, that could well end up opening a few doors and eyes to people formerly misunderstood. One of Jordan’s greatest qualities is his ability to reach out to others with warmth and frankness, which strikes me as very refreshing. A welcoming way does more to help others surmount obstacles and heal divides than cynics believe. But enough cyber-philosophizing, bring on the tea, and make sure it’s iced, with sugar and plenty of fresh lemon!

Miss Odessa, big momma in a deceptively fun sounding house down South, where Jordan, age seventeen, made his drag queen debut, whose voices and persona he seamlessly adopts, was for me, one of the most real of the many characters in the show, as her humour was so like a lot of the ‘escaped’ Southern black women I’ve known and worked with in Philly over the years. Jordan displays an uncanny ability to link character with reality, and story with memory in such segments, as he does in those in which he’s conversing with his mother and, responding, as only she could. West End actors memorize lines, but they’re still playing someone else. Jordan is being himself, right down to his earliest influences.

Speaking of which, as a former ‘Junior Catholic Daughter of America’ (perish the thought), Jordan’s talk of swingin’ 60’s TV show Hullabaloo (I watched Shindig too) and how he lusted after one of the male dancers spiraled memories of skinny young teen me craving sexy go-go clothes when I was forced to wear ‘minis’ with matching bloomers! But anyone seeing Jordan’s show whose age of reason’s a distant memory may be surprised at the scenes of awkwardness, beauty, lust, despair, and fun that replay as they listen to his reminiscences and, after. Like Jordan repeatedly says, ‘You couldn’t make this shit up.’

Back in the bad old days of the ‘50’s in deep South redneck country, the son of an Army Colonel father and Southern Belle style mother who preferred dolls to football wouldn’t have had an easy time of it.  But Jordan’s parents always assured him that he was special, an invaluable gift he still credits them with giving him today. ‘You can do anything’ has been Jordan’s message in both of his London staged auto-biographical shows and it must be true, as it’s worked for him, in more ways than you could imagine. Unless of course, you see Fruit Fly, the title of which represents some wonderfully sustaining life lessons Leslie Jordan learned from his mother, Miss Peggy Ann.

 

 

Leslie Jordan and his mother, Miss Peggy Ann
 
Leicester Square Theatre
6 Leicester Place
LONDON   WC2H 7BX

Tues 12 Mar – Sat. 16 Mar.
7:30 pm
Tickets: £20.00 - £29.50
Box office: 08448 733433 

www.leicesterquaretheatre.com
 
Monday 18 March 
TheLowry
Pier 8 Salford Quays 
M50 3AZ

at 7.30pm 

Tickets: £19.50

Box office: 0843 208 6000 

www.thelowry.com

 

 

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