The Kinsey Sicks
The Kinsey Sicks bill themselves as "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet".
They perform both original music and lyrics as well as parodies of well-known songs a cappella. Their work, while extremely comedic, is often highly politically charged. Their name is a play of words on "Kinsey 6", the end of the Kinsey scale defined as exclusively homosexual.
The term Dragapella is a registered U.S. trademark of the group.
The Kinsey Sicks began in 1993 when a group of five friends (largely lawyers and professional activists) went to a Bette Midler concert in San Francisco, dressed as the Andrews Sisters. Assuming they'd be among many drag queens, they found themselves to be the only ones. They were approached that night by a woman who asked them to perform at her upcoming 50th birthday party. Though their initial reply was, "we don't sing," the group was surprised to learn that all of them had previous musical experience.
In July 1994, The Kinsey Sicks (then consisting of Ben Schatz as "Rachel", Irwin Keller as "Winnie", Maurice Kelly as "Trixie", Jerry Friedman as "Vaselina", and Abatto Avilez as "Begoña") drew a large and enthusiastic crowd at their first public performance on a street corner in San Francisco's Castro District. A year later, Avilez died, and was never replaced, leaving the Kinsey Sicks as a quartet (a formation that has remained consistent ever since.) Since then, The Kinsey Sicks have produced and performed full-length theatrical productions and concerts around the country. The group eventually became successful enough for its members to leave their former occupations to concentrate on performance.
Members and roles
Since its initial formation, the lineup of the Kinsey Sicks has undergone several changes and iterations. Schatz and Keller have been the group's only constant through all incarnations. Each member of the group performs a fully realized character, and as new members have joined, they have been encouraged to personally expand and develop their own "history". The members of the group over the years have been:
- Ben Schatz as "Rachel" (1993–present) – Schatz, a Harvard-trained civil rights lawyer and former Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, created the first national AIDS legal project and authored Bill Clinton's HIV policy during the 1992 presidential campaign. He is now a full-time performer as a member of the Sicks. His character, "Rachel", is loudly feminist, angry, and an activist noted both for her diminutive stature, muscular build, and her refusal to shave her underarms.
- Irwin Keller as "Winnie" (1993–present) – Keller, also a lawyer, received his law degree from the University of Chicago and was the former director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel of the San Francisco Bay Area. Keller authored Chicago's gay rights ordinance, passed into law in 1989. By 2002, Keller had ceased practicing law to perform full-time. His character, "Winnie", is Jewish, a lesbian, and motherly with an old-fashioned sensibility.
- Jeff Manabat as "Trixie" (2004–present) – Manabat, a professional musical theater-performer and graduate of UC-Berkeley, was discovered by the then-current members of the group while performing in a production of When Pigs Fly at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco. The Asian American Manabat's casting as Trixie means that the character has actually had three ethnicities over the years. Manabat's Trixie retains all of the original elements of the character, but has, at Manabat's insistence, stopped wearing platinum blonde wigs and is more easily identifiable as Asian. Since joining the group, Manabat is responsible for musical arrangements, Trixie's inordinate glamour and soaring counter-tenor, as well as the entire group's hot couture. Manabat's "Trixie" is glamorous, and somewhat conceited, frequently referring to the other members of the group as "backup singers".
- Spencer Brown as "Trampolina" (October 2008 – present) – the Kinsey Sicks were joined in October 2008 by Spencer Brown, a Kansas City-based actor and singer, already known for his drag character Daisy Bucket (pronounced "bouquet"). His character, "Trampolina", is dim but sweet and sometimes slutty.
- Abatto Avilez as "Begoña" (1993) – Though Avilez was present at the Bette Midler concert that led to the formation of the Sicks, and appeared with them at their first performance, he quickly dropped out of the group. Avilez died in 1995 and the song "Begoña's Song" was written to honor his memory and was frequently performed in concert by the Sicks.
- Jerry Friedman as "Vaselina" (1993–1999) – Friedman, former Director of Audiology at the San Francisco Hearing Center, was the son of a piano teacher. "Vaselina", said to have been born in a trailer, was trampy, sweet, and not particularly bright. Friedman, Avilez's life partner, died on May 17, 2002 in Omaha, Nebraska of lymphoma. Friedman has been memorialized by Ben Schatz's song "Jerry's Song", which the group has performed in various shows and also appears on the album and film of I Wanna Be a Republican.
- Maurice Kelly as "Trixie" (1993–2001) – Kelly, a former project manager for Levi Strauss Corp., created the role of "Trixie"and her original platinum blonde coiffure.
- Chris Dilley as "Trampolina" (1999–2007/2008) – Dilley, an actor-musician, joined the Sicks as understudy for Friedman's "Vaselina". Trampolina was originally referred to as Vaselina's illegitimate daughter, but those references were phased out after Dilley became Friedman's permanent replacement. Like Vaselina, Trampolina filled the "dumb and slutty" stereotype of the group. After joining the group full-time, Dilley became one of the principal arrangers of the group's music. Though he retired from the group in the summer of 2007, he came back to play "Trampolina" in the summer season of 2008, and filled in for Manabat as Trixie in spring 2011.
- Kevin Kirkwood as "Trixie" (2001–2003) – Kirkwood is a professional actor-singer-dancer who was understudy for Kelly and Dilley in "Dragapella!" and was then announced as Kelly's replacement for six months while Kelly took time off. After Kelly decided not to return to the group, Kirkwood remained in the role for an additional year. Kirkwood's version of Trixie was introduced as "[Trixie's] long-lost identical twin sister, Trixie" — an absurd comment on the fact that Kirkwood is African American and Kelly is white. Aside from the racial differences, and the occasional "Trixie Houston" reference, Kirkwood's persona as "Trixie" was largely faithful to the character's original conception.
- Charles Romaine as "Trampolina" (2007–2008) – Romaine, a Los Angeles-based performer and graduate of New York University, joined the group as Dilley's understudy and, in the year after Chris Dilley's August 2007 retirement from the group, played Trampolina.
Performances, Film & Video
In 2001 the Kinsey Sicks produced and starred off-Broadway in the critically acclaimed DRAGAPELLA! Starring the Kinsey Sicks at New York's Studio 54. That production received a nomination for a Lucille Lortel award for Best Musical of 2001 and a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Lyrics for lyricist Ben Schatz.
In 2006 the Kinsey Sicks performed an extended engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton. In addition, their first feature film, Kinsey Sicks: I Wanna Be a Republican, premiered at the 30th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. The documentary The Kinsey Sicks: Almost Infamous, covering the history of the group and their run at the Las Vegas Hilton was released in 2008.
The group has also appeared in such venues as the Herbst Theatre and New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco; Boston Center for the Arts and The Theater Offensive, Boston; Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and Club Soda, Montreal; the Nordstrom Recital Hall and Triple Door Seattle; the Ogden Theatre, Denver; the Colony Theatre, South Beach; the Wheeler Opera Hall, Aspen; Studio 54, Caroline's on Broadway, and Gotham Comedy Club, New York City; Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and The Improv, Houston; Crown & Anchor and Town Hall, The Palm, Blue Chairs, and Club Manana, Provincetown. Their stage productions have included The Balled Sopranos, Motel Sicks: A Dragapella Summer Vacation, Everything But the Kitsch 'n'Synch and GreatesTits, all of which premiered at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre Center. They are also frequently invited to perform at colleges; those performances are usually followed by a question-and-answer session with the group, out of costume.
The group began releasing music videos in 2010, starting with the oil-spill satire BP is Creepy, followed by the Lady Gaga parody Bedroom Ants, the TSA-mocking Rocky-Horror parody Touch-A Touch Me, TSA Security, "Twisted Christmas Parodies, Things You Shouldn't Say, and I Must Watch YouTube. Just before the 2012 Republican National Convention, the group released a satirical video about Republican Party economic policy titled The Official GOP Economic Platform (as sung by The Kinsey Sicks), which suggests a policy of selling the poor to curb the national deficit.
In 2012, The Kinsey Sicks premiered a new show commissioned by Theatre J in Washington, D.C., called Electile Dysfunction: Kinsey Sicks for President using the tag line "Sometimes it's hard being Republican" which tours until the November elections.
In 2013, the group will celebrate its 20th anniversary with their new show America's Next Top Bachelor Housewife Celebrity Hoarder Makeover Star Gone Wild which parodies reality television while showcasing the group's wide range of musical tastes over the past twenty years.
- Dragapella! (1997)
- Boyz 2 Girlz (2000)
- Sicks in the City (2002)
- I Wanna Be a Republican (2004)
- Oy Vey in a Manger: Christmas Carols and Other Jewish Music (2005)
- Sicks! Sicks! Sicks! Full Frontal New Ditties (2008)
- Each Hit & I (2010)
- Electile Dysfunction (2012)
All albums available on iTunes
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