SHOW: If I Were a Drag Queen, I Would Be Famous
PERFORMER: Shannon Agnew
ATTENDED: Thurs., Sept. 12, 7 p.m., Society Hill Playhouse
CLOSES: Sun., September 15
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: "Shannon Agnew delivers hilarious parody, sharp satire, and Broadway hits performing as legends Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews, Patti LuPone, and more."
WE THINK: To anyone whose had to suffer through a friend’s approximation of a Bill Cosby monologue on puddin’ pops, the prospect of impressions can be anxiety-inducing. A good impression can be sublime; a bad one downright embarrassing. Luckily, Shannon Agnew’s channelings of Broadway stars past and present are more convincing than most—Liza Minnelli, in particular, is so spot-on as to be almost eerie. In If I Were a Drag Queen, I Would Be Famous, Agnew harnesses her powers of impersonation to skewer and celebrate a host of famous performers and the productions that won them Tonys.
There are moments throughout If I Were a Drag Queen where her humor manages to shine even without context—one doesn’t need to be intimately familiar with the life of Patti LuPone to laugh at Agnew hissing animalistically into the microphone, her hands curled into claws—but on the whole, it’s a show that might not be accessible to audience members with no knowledge of Broadway and its iconic divas. As the granddaughter of a Jewish theater matron who was being carted around the Great White Way before I was even old enough to stay awake past intermission, I laughed hard enough at point to be in danger of knocking over the cabaret-esque table at which I was seated. Still, some of the jokes felt too insular even for me. The show seemed to suffer from an editing problem. Of the songs Agnew performs, she’s rewritten the lyrics to about half—a figure that beings to feel too high when the same complaints (Broadway’s descent into unoriginality, the dominance of Disney, Glee—to name a few) are revisited again and again, they begin to lose their bite.
Still, even these occasionally cringe-inducing missteps don’t manage to overly distract from Agnew’s obvious vocal talents. At any rate, it seems I’ll be humming her Liza-rendition of “New York, New York” for the forseeable future.
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