April 2014

Pearls Over Shanghai Returns!

Peter Linenthal

Good news: a true San Francisco tradition continues! A revival of the Cockettes’ 1970 show Pearls Over Shanghai at the Hypnodrome Theater contains everything that made a 2000 revival of Pearls a sold-out sensation for almost two years: the energy, glitter, gender-bending, an incredible opium dream sequence, nudity, and a 1930s toe-tapping musical vibe that never, ever, quits. The production is a fitting tribute to the Cockettes’ 45th anniversary.  

The Cockettes were a loose-knit theatrical troupe who performed midnight movie shows at the recently demolished Pagoda Theater on Washington Square. Their anarchic hippie spirit and outrageous thrift store-meets-psychedelics style profoundly influenced popular culture. David Bowie, the New York Dolls, and the fashion glitz of Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gautier are clearly in their debt. At the time it was truly revolutionary to see bearded men wearing spangled ball gowns. Original Cockette Rumi Missabu probably described the ensemble best:  “The Little Rascals on acid doing Busby Berkeley in drag.” Three original Cockettes —Rumi, Scrumbly Koldewyn and “Sweet Pam” Tent—appear in the Hypnodrome show.

Pearls is the tale of three innocent American women who are captives in the mysterious, exotic, inscrutable Shanghai of 1937. Western stereotypes of Asia are featured, but only “...to show the absurdity of the attitudes of the 1930s period as depicted in the movies of that decade”, said composer Koldewyn. The production includes 24 original show tunes performed by a cast of more than 20, choreography featuring tap, plot twists and sex, frequently overflows the small stage in the 40-seat theater. 

March 20 to May 31, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.. Reservations are recommended. The Hypnodrome Theater is located at 575 10th Street between Bryant and Division. Tickets available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/571738  or by calling 800.838.3006.                                                                                                                         

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