Stephanie, Francesca, Ian, and I saw Machine Dazzle at the Guggenheim on 9/5/19. Stephanie, Francesca, and I know Dazzle as the costume designer for Taylor Mac and were curious to see what he was like as a performer. His performance was multi-faceted: he told stories, he sang songs he had written, and (of course) he designed the costumes. Let’s say that some of these elements were more successful than others.
The songs had a strong beat, I was tapping my foot quite a lot, but they sounded like the B side of a Velvet Underground single. One cup Velvet Underground, one cup *Hedwig,* a half cup of Bowie, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and a teaspoon of clown white foundation. Whisk vigorously, rehearse to a fare-thee-well, bring to a boil, and serve room temperature!
The stories were stories we’ve heard told so many times - - not just in a Lifetime TV movie, I think they might have been told in an After School Special starring Scott Baio and/or one of the Coreys. I don’t require absolute originality, but a splash of something fresh, that would be appreciated.
But let me tell you what was fresh, what was stunning, what was genius: the costumes! Holy crap, knock me on my ass, unbelievable. There was a fashion show about two-thirds of the way through the show, which was worth the whole show. Here are some pictures (FYI we were encouraged to take pictures, just not with a flash):
And one photo of Dazzle at the end of the show:
The material was tired and his singing was troubling - - Stephanie was driven around the bend by his distant relationship with pitch. And you could hardly understand any of the words in the songs, which I think was a mixture of a) bad diction, b) bad sound and/or microphone technique, and c) bad lyrics (when you DID understand some of the words, you realized it really wasn't worth the effort).
It made me think back to something I saw on TV sometime in the late 90s. Al Jarreau was on Regis and Kathie Lee promoting his appearance in *Grease* on Broadway. He did some rapping and encouraged Kathie Lee to rap, and got the audience chanting, "Kathie Lee rap! Kathie Lee rap!" She silenced them and said, "I will not be rapping. Half of knowing what you do well is knowing what you DON'T do well, and rapping is one of those things." Such wisdom! So a word of advice to Machine Dazzle: you're a brilliant costume designer, stick to that! As Stephanie said to Francesca after the show, "Keep the day job!"
But in spite of all of that, there was something genuinely touching going on, something moving about a man making a show about his mother, and making the journey from his boyhood self to his full-flower drag personage.