Katya: What Becomes a Legend Most?

J. Conrad Frank avoids the pitfalls of many drag shows that rely too much on kitsch, shakily sung parody songs, and trashy banter. Frank's alter ego, the Russian countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, is glamorous and tasteful, elegantly intoxicated (her last name says it all), and can sing, sliding easily from her high falsetto to a low tenor range. With each operatic song and through four gorgeous costume changes, Katya illuminates a new aspect of her history — from her humble beginnings growing up in Russia with a Gypsy father (Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" sung as torch ballad) through her brief career at the Metropolitan Opera to her stint as a wedding singer at endangered gay marriages (the quite stirring "Make Them Hear You," from Ragtime). Apparently fearing the show isn't gay enough, she also throws in an over-the-top medley featuring Cher, Judy Garland, Madonna, Queen, and the Village People. Katya is extremely popular in the local drag scene, winning major awards, but the night I attended felt off. The room's energy was low, jokes often fell flat, and occasionally her thick European accent and falsetto got tiresome. Yet I felt like I got to know a fully rounded persona — more than I can say for most other drag shows.

 
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