It’s a sleepy Tuesday night in Los Angeles and the crowd at the historic Avalon Hollywood is getting impatient. They’re here to see The Zodiac Show – dubbed a modern day Moulin Rouge – with live music, dancing and singing. Rehearsal footage projected and looped on giant screens overhead promise even more. The booze is flowing liberally, the crowd is dressed in their hipster best and the show couldn’t start any sooner. Unfortunately, things are running an hour behind and the static Zodiac Show logo on the curtains is getting old fast. This had better be worth the wait.
The origins of The Zodiac Show began in 2001 as an after-hours party held in a photo studio and hosted by photographer Lee Cherry and his friend, ex-Pussycat Doll Carmit Bachar. They called it “The Freedom Party” and the event attracted entertainers of varying fame, talent and backgrounds, ranging from recognizable names to underground performers that rapped, danced, spun and thrashed. With such a pool of talent to draw from, sharing the same goal of creative freedom, it was only natural to evolve the party into a real show at a real venue.
The Avalon Hollywood is the latest theater to have The Zodiac Show grace its stage. This historic location has welcomed performers such as the Beatles for their first West Coast performance in 1964 and has bid farewell to others, like the Ramones for their final concert in 1996. It has been host to presidents, game shows and celebrity wedding receptions. And tonight, the Avalon Hollywood will feature established and emerging artists that have worked all over the world and with some of the best. That is, if the show ever starts.
“We’ve waited this long,” a man says, doing his best to convince his friends to stay. Across the way, a woman yawns. It’s half an hour to midnight and the following workday is looming large on more and more minds. Then a booming voice calls for places, the lights lower and the curtains part, revealing the Virgo Intro to this variety show.
Dancers in silhouette behind a scrim give way to a commanding figure outlined in blinding light: MzA Superstar. Think Michael Clarke Duncan in drag, sporting a bearskin marching band hat and low-slung hip-huggers. As he begins the first stanza of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog, it’s obvious that he’s the unofficial ring leader to this rock & roll circus. At the end of the first performance, he asks, “You bitches are gagging, aren’t you? Get ready to gag some more.” To his credit, the first act set the tone perfectly with high energy that electrified the crowd, but the rest of the show wasn’t consistently “gag-worthy.”
The second performance stood out in particular, but mainly because of its placement. Alisan Porter – diminutive in stature, but large in vocals – belted out a self-written love ballad that took the show in a subdued direction that would have been more effective later on. Fortunately, the next piece by Adam Lambert was literally incendiary and had the crowd pumped up again, even if his performance was a little overcooked, brandishing a flaming staff.
As with many variety shows, some acts didn’t connect as well as others. Leo Moctezuma’s and Nina McNeely’s comedic Poopy Pants Blues performed in dance-pantomime sailed over the Hollywood crowd’s collective head. Conversely, Hyperballad, which featured impressive aerial acrobatics by Marlyn Ortiz and Dakota Ferreiro, elevated the entire show and gave the audience something distinctive beyond singing and dancing.
Special consideration is certainly due to the band. Sure, they looked like a motley crew with no unified style. Some sported heads completely encased in red sequins while others doused themselves in glitter body-makeup. The rest just showed up in jeans and t-shirts. Yet, their music was flawless and a wonderful complement to every act that evening.
The Zodiac Show could, however, use a writer’s touch to bring some cohesion to the event. Have an act for each astrological sign or perhaps create characters and tell the tale of their journey through performance. All things considered, the talented cast and varied pieces make The Zodiac Show definitely worth losing some sleep over on a Tuesday night.