Joey Arias is a statuesque, raven-haired legend of the New York drag scene who croons like Billie Holiday and used to emcee for Cirque Du Soliel. Basil Twist is an award-winning puppeteer who once staged an all-puppet Petrushka at Lincoln Center and consulted on the third Harry Potter film. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to take acid and wake up next to a singing female impersonator and a piano-playing marionette, then their dark, trippy, multi-media musical collaboration, Arias With a Twist, is the show for you.
Originally staged in 2008 and back for a brief four-week engagement at NYC’s Abrons Art Center, Arias has a fairly simple premise. Miss Joey Arias is abducted by aliens, probed, and dropped back on Earth hundreds of years in the future when mankind no longer exists. In an Eden-like jungle, she eats a magic mushroom, which sends her on a crazy trip that has her dancing with devils, stomping through NYC like the 50-foot woman, and finally fulfilling her dream of singing on Broadway. Twist provides the flying, freaky aliens, the luscious, pulsating jungle roughage, the well-endowed (yes, you see everything) horny devils, the teeny New York skyline, and the vintage marionette backup band. Arias, with his Bettie Page haircut, dominatrix straps, and Thierry Mugler gowns, does the singing, which includes selections from Holiday, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and a hiccupy version of ”All By Myself” that’s part-Marilyn, part-Liza. (There also some original songs, by composer Alex Gifford.) Gloria Swanson, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Charles Manson, Clark Gable, and Lassie also show up to pay tribute to Arias in an amusing newsreel interlude projected on the stage.
Yet the showstopper is the Busby Berkeley-esque finale, set to the Ziegfeld Follies classic ”You Gotta Pull Strings” and featuring a chorus line of high-kicking, plumed, life-size puppets and a gigantic cake adorned with dozens of stockinged legs. It’s the same song a teenage and innocent-looking Judy Garland warbled in 1941’s Ziegfeld Girl. But in Twist’s and Arias’ hands, the number becomes a tribute to the later Judy — stylish, camp, macabre, and with a major set of pipes. B+
(TICKETS: Ovationtix.com or 866.811.4111)