Bloody musical high jinks in Thrillpeddlers’ ‘Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical’ 

Black and white and red all over, “Vice Palace,” the latest musical from Thrillpeddlers, is another wild and fun ride from the gender-bending troupe that had recent success with its 22-month run of “Pearls Over Shanghai.”

Set in the 1960s, “Vice Palace” takes place in the Italian home of Signorina Divina, a jet-setter who locks her merry band of friends inside due to a plague that has stricken the town outside her compound’s walls.

Entertaining throughout, the romp combines the antics of the Cockettes — the San Francisco drag troupe that did an original stage version of the show in the 1970s with screen star Divine as Divina — in a spoof Fellini-esque atmosphere.

Adorned in to-die-for black-and-white attire (by a clearly dedicated nine-person costume and wig crew), the characters include film director Frederico Fellatio (Eric Tyon Wertz in a cast change in a recent performance); Bella, Divina’s secretary (Kim Larsen); and Divina herself, the commanding Leigh Crow.

The red comes in the form of “There’s Blood on Your Face,” the show’s riotous opening number describing the malaise that has taken over the area, featuring the entire ensemble, including a baby literally being tossed around, spattered in blood.

There’s not much of a plot, but that doesn’t matter.

What strings together the musical numbers — by Richard “Scrumbly” Koldewyn, one of the original Cockettes, and the late Martin Worman — is that they’re performed by Divina’s art-world pals as they’re cloistered away from the world.

Each bit is crazier than the last. Act 1 has “Moochie Coochie,” with the hefty Tina Sogliuzzo as exotic dancer Lola Ginafrigida; the Alaska-set “No-Nose Nanook,” with a tap dancing igloo; and “Caligula,” a gruesome number graphically detailing the life of the perverse Roman leader sung by a diva named Lucretia (Russell Blackwood).

As if that weren’t enough, Act 2 features “A Crab on Uranus,” sung by socialite Sylva (L. Ron Hubby) wearing a glittering scarlet crustacean costumer, and “Just a Lonely Little Turd” sung by musician Vagina Dentata (Birdie-Bob Watt).

Erotic dancers in the “Flesh Ballet” are in the nude.

Not every number is over the top, though. Lovers Gina, Divina’s maid (Bonni Suval) and Goldoni the cook (Flynn de Marco) sing the sweet “Something Unspoken,” and composer Koldewyn, as musician Serafina, has a lovely serenade in “Midnight in Manhattan.”

It wouldn’t be Thrillpeddlers if there weren’t some ghosts to go with the blood, and the show boasts a ghoulish blackout scene too. Hopefully, that represents a fun prelude to whatever macabre zaniness the company has in store for its annual “Shockotoberfest” Halloween festivities.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

THEATER REVIEW

Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical


Presented by Thrillpeddlers

Where: Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; closes July 31

Tickets: $30 to $35

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com, www.thrillpeddlers.com

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Leslie Katz

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