BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
“Jukebox Jackie” is a mad little extravaganza that celebrates Jackie Curtis, a gender-bending performer and writer who was, among other things, a Warhol superstar and a downtown pioneer of the glitter rock scene of the 1970s.
Opening on Wednesday at La MaMa, “Jukebox Jackie” is a collage of scenes, poetry, film and songs written by or associated with Curtis, who died of a heroin overdose in 1985. Don’t expect to get a comprehensive biography here so much as an atmospheric impression of a self-dramatizing glamour puss who thrived on the stardust of old movies and late nights in the back room at Max’s Kansas City.
This show has been conceived by “Hairspray” and “Smash” songwriter Scott Wittman, who assembled the intermittently frail material with Tony Zanetta and directs the 90-minute proceedings, which more or less sees Jackie cavorting in a heaven of his/her own mind.
Jackie awakes amid fuchsia-colored drapes and purple glitter to unload for us a trunk full of memories, play fragments, poetry, film clips and songs. Some of the scrapbook stuff is third-rate Ronald Tavel-ish trash, but other texts like the long poem “B-Girls,” prove to be colorful evocations of the 1960s-70s-80s hipster scene that titillated New York way back when.
Of course, what was so deliciously shocking then looks mighty quaint today.
The show turns out to be mostly an agreeable nostalgia fest thanks to a personable cast, a dynamically performed song stack from the period (“Lady Stardust,” “Crystal Ship,” “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon” etc., among a dozen others) that is backed by a tasty six-member orchestra led by Lance Horne, and Wittman’s very sharp, swift direction of it all.
Ever a tart presence, Justin Vivian Bond of “Kiki and Herb” fame wears a tousled blond wig, blue-lidded make-up and usually a flowered housedress as Jackie. Eschewing his drunken Kiki persona to enjoyably chew the draperies as the gaily exuberant Jackie, Bond evolves into a surprisingly touching figure for the show’s later poignant moments.