It takes more than a village to raise a drag queen. It takes an entire county. Or, at least it did on Friday night May 4th, when the larger than life Varla Jean Merman cast her womanly spell at The Green Room 42 in Midtown.
Merman brought her lasso and deflective bracelets to Wonder Merman, an evening of song and kooky dance which honored strong women. The performance was hosted and sponsored by the Dutchess County Tourism Bureau. New York City was the middle stop in her mini-tour which included Philadephia on Thursday and Hudson Valley on Saturday.
Jeffrey Roberson, the man behind the make-up, created Wonder Merman in 2016. Roberson told qlife magazine‘s Michael Barbieri, “I thought it would be great to do a female empowerment show and talk about my female role models, culminating in the election of the first female president.” One aspect of that didn’t work out so well, but Roberson kept the show. Smart move.
Varla Jean Merman has been a fixture on the New York City drag scene for 25 plus years. Her sold-out audience on Friday night provided solid evidence of both loyalty and longevity. Merman did more than solely focus on her favorite female superheroine. Throughout the night, she exalted the likes of well-known personalities including Eleanor Roosevelt, Doris Day, Jane Goodall, and Josephine Baker. She also enlightened her audience with lesser-known figures like Margaret Knight, who invented the flat-bottomed paper bag machine. Of course, it wouldn’t be a true drag show without commentary on the “flat bottom” portion of Knight’s biography.
Merman also clawed into Taylor Swift’s actual interview in Vogue magazine. Merman didn’t even have to work for the jokes here. She simply read the interview verbatim with no irony. Her delivery was priceless, but the unintended hilarity is still fun to read in print.
Merman took playful jabs at her audience, none of which were mean-spirited or cruel. That in itself proves her worth as a performer. While many drag artists take the low road of demeaning an audience, Merman,like a great female leader, lifts hers up.
It’s unlikely that one would find inspiration in a larger than life drag star, but in this current political climate where authority figures lack brains, truth, decorum, and dignity, we’ll take it! With Varla Jean Merman, there is truth in those false eyelashes.
Upcoming shows at The Green Room 42 include jazz singer/songwriter Spencer Day on May 18th, Christiana DeCicco on May 19th, and a return engagement of Frances Ruffelle‘s show on May 20th. For tickets and further information, click here.