Review: ‘Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce’ at the Curran is delicious

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Taylor Mac performs “Holiday Sauce” at the Curran in San Francisco through Dec. 1st. (Little Fang photography)

There is an awful lot happening in a Taylor Mac show.

By Mac’s sustainability standards, the wonderfully poignant and joyous two-plus hour piece “Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce” is obviously not the length of Mac’s prior efforts, most notably the 24 hours of music performance a year ago in New York City. But even within those massively-filled two hours, by my own unofficial scorecard, this is what I counted up:

–       Baby Jesus, who sipped out of various bottles, rocking a full beard.

–       A chorus made up entirely of senior citizens who occupied two of the private boxes.

–       A nude Angel Gabriel who shot up a pole wearing nothing but a smile, then proceeded to put on a pair of angel wings and watched all the magic unfold below like a proud papa.

–       And of course, a bunch of the audience members gathering on stage to belt “Fairytale of New York,” an English pub drinking song, complete with shots of alcohol in paper cups for those who knew the words. They sat together on the stage, just looking so damn happy, free booze and free memories.

This description doesn’t even cover half of the magic of the show that is “Holiday Sauce,” performed by the artist who goes by the gender pronoun “judy.” Mac is a performer whose only rules are that there are none. Not only does judy bring about a youthful fire (in a cauldron nonetheless) and showmanship reserved for only the most brilliant of performers, judy gives us so much eye candy you would think we were celebrating Halloween instead of Christmas.

In the initial moments of the show, it is apparent that we have gathered at the Curran not only for a Christmas show worthy of the most bah-humbuggish of those in the seats, but a Christmas show unlike anything most of us have ever seen, especially those of us who were taking in Mac for the first time. And the first thing that strikes you is the wonderfully queer vibe among the audience, a good portion of the folks dressed to the nines for the occasion, folks living out loud and living out proud. That vibe clearly sets so much of Mac’s evening in motion, even allowing judy to quip that those in the audience who are straight might not get anything that is happening.

As wonderfully dazzling as many in the audience were, there was no one who was going to upstage Mac, with judy’s incredibly resplendent makeup and a costume that takes the duration of the show to see everything it entails. The costumes and sets were handled by Machine Dazzle, who lived up to their name in spades.

Despite the surreal spectacle that is all-encompassing, the show is all about the music, and the stunning nature of Mac as a vocalist is so absurdly on point, with delicious trills and effortless belts built from earth-shattering pipes which judy drives with aplomb. No note or breath is wasted in Mac’s adroit vocal cords.

Judy’s control showcases a vocal extraordinaire, a musician of the highest order. Led by music director Matt Ray and his versatility on the ivories, the tight band with so much varied texture made for a show which marries showmanship, musicianship and spectacle which were wholly harmonious. Tunes like the Rolling Stones’ classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and other more traditional ditties such as “The Little Drummer Boy,” or “O Holy Night” just shred as the nine-piece band brings the power.

After all the organized chaos of the night, after all the thongs and fishnets and a full-blown attack on the patriarchy and a few crowd-pleasing cracks about the current president, Mac turned serious.

It was done in the simplest of ways, a few milquetoast tunes about the holidays at the houses of three sets of grandparents, one of those sets non-biological. The tone and lonely teardrops of each ukulele note as Mac sat alone reflect what the holidays were for Judy. There were parties, there were celebrations, but these were not joyous moments for a young boy struggling to live out loud in order to find yuletide bliss. The misery and alienation of these times are commonplace for many, whose families gather together out of obligation as opposed to sheer, common joy and love.

Which comes to the final magic of the show, getting to know more intimately a character who was easy to fall in love with, a character whose spirit and likeness never left the stage. It was Mac’s drag mentor, Mother Flawless Superior. The wisdom espoused by the Flawless one can fill a notebook by itself, and it was the alienation of judy’s youth combined with this epic figure in the drag world that led to this show. “Commit to yourself before the world commits to you,” or “Normal is a setting on the dryer” are just a few gems that led Mac to us, a full-blown genius in every sense of the word.

That push against what is normal is what made the evening so magical. This was the evening that Mac dreamed of after experiencing so much holiday heartache, and we were the sauce that Mac craved.

It was time to reinvent the Christmas song. It was time to say, “Screw the patriarchy.” It was time to gather under Mac’s very large tent.

And it was time to leave the theatre with one indelible fact in tow;

Judy’s the boss, applesauce.

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

The Curran presents “Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce”
Created and performed by Taylor Mac
The Word: A blast of a show that is full of humor and poignant touches, led by Mac and company’s illustrious musicianship.
Stars: 5 out of 5
Through Dec. 1st
Running time: Two hours
The Curran
445 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Tickets range from $29 – $125
For tickets, call (415) 358-1220 or visit the Curran’s official website

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