The plot of the 1995 sexual camp flick “Showgirls” has been the target of some amazingly horrendous reviews. The film was widely and brutally panned upon its release, with plot points so absurd you’d think a film with these ideas could never get made. There are plenty of broken legs, broken hips, topless karate attacks and one of the all time signature moments in the film – a woman drilled in the back by her younger rival, causing her to cascade down some stairs. While the aging vixen is losing her fight with gravity, their fellow company of Vegas dancers look on in horror while wearing not much more than g-strings, stiletto heels and leather collars.
It’s not exactly the stuff of Shakespeare. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Take John Waters for example. The famed writer of some legendary cult films in the ’70’s, as well as mainstream movies such as “Hairspray,” fell in love with the film after seeing it at Cannes Film Festival in France.
When Joshua Grannell was a senior at Penn State University studying film, he was able to bring Waters to campus for a speaking engagement around this time. Waters’ was bullish on his praise of the film when he spoke to Grannell and a few of his friends.
“He told us the movie was going to blow our minds,” said Grannell.
And it did.
Grannell, a wildly popular drag performer who goes by the stage name “Peaches Christ,” is bringing some of that fleshy camp to San Francisco. “Showgirls! The Musical,” directed by Grannell, is completely and unashamedly irreverent, full of sexual camp, the 22-song musical going right at the audience with numbers such as “Whorrior,” “Don’t Lick that Pole, Girl” and “You’re a Whore, Darlin’.” And those are some of the tamer titles.
Grannell is all about fun, and was one of the first persons to bring the film “Showgirls” to his Midnight Mass Film Festival in San Francisco not long after its release. For those first 18 years of the screening at the festival, Grannell and his group of drag queens would even offer their own preshow of the film, which included lap dances for anyone who bought a large popcorn.
Grannell feels the movie, with all of its sexual schlock led by Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon, is at its best when it’s taken as a tongue in cheek endeavor.
“If a movie were a drag queen, it would be ‘Showgirls,’” said Grannell, who has spent the last 20 years in San Francisco, a transplant from Maryland. “It is so extreme, over the top, ludicrous and I immediately loved it.”
The musical production made its mark initially in New York, and as luck would have it, April Kidwell, who originated the role of Nomi Malone, will be recreating the role in San Francisco. Kidwell, who Grannell said is “not to be believed,” even scored a great review two years ago via Twitter from “Hamilton” creator Lin Manuel Miranda, who tweeted, “No one’s giving a more hilarious and committed performance than April Kidwell in Showgirls!”
If someone were to think that Grannell chose this production to make fun of the film, they would be dead wrong. Grannell, who stars opposite Kidwell as Malone’s catty rival Cristal Connors, has a sincere affinity for the film, even though he has to fly down a staircase near you on a nightly basis.
“If you watch that film at face value thinking it is an earnest look of a Las Vegas showgirl, you would hate it,” said Grannell. “But if you can come to the film and celebrate it as a ridiculous, over the top, wonderfully offensive and insane drag queen movie, it turns that problematic content into a wonderful comedy to be celebrated. That’s what the stage show does.”
Peaches Christ is having a ball bringing the show to a city that celebrates diversity on its stages, a city that has boasted many legendary drag performers and venues over the years. And San Francisco is more than ready for the show that has had some pretty wild reviews. Even ice cream parlor Humphry Slocombe has gotten in on the act, creating an ice cream flavor for Peaches, a combination of peaches and popcorn.
Grannell admits this particular show is not for everyone. But everyone who comes is sure to have themselves a rollicking good time.
“If someone is easily offended, this is not the show for them,” said Grannell. “But it is so much fun. There is no part of this musical that one should take seriously. We are there to celebrate and entertain the audience and hopefully make them laugh a lot.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
“Showgirls! The Musical”
Directed by Joshua Grannell
Starring April Kidwell and Peaches Christ
Aug. 10th – 27th
The Victoria Theatre
2961 16th Street, San Francisco, CA
Tickets range from $32 – $50
For tickets, visit peacheschrist.com