Jackie Curtis—for those of you not reading this with one hand on a bootleg copy of Women in Revolt—was many things at once: man and woman, poet and playwright, Warhol Superstar and raggedy punk queen. You might know Jackie from Lou Reed songs; you might know Jackie from Velvet Goldmine and the glitter-bomb style Jackie’s look set off among the Bowie set. And if you don’t know Jackie? Then you will be flummoxed all through Scott Wittman’s grab-bag tribute, a haphazard, cutely unmade thing that pastes together Curtis’s journal entries and various songs like a cross between a gender-bending cabaret and some fantasy of downtown New York’s high-school yearbook.
If Jukebox Jackie’s sweetness seems strange in a work about a drug-riddled “Columbus of the mind,” then at least some danger lurks in the performers—although they are frequently held too far away from us by Scott Pask’s ugly pink-bunting-draped set. Jackie’s many selves filter through four conduits: power-singing freight train Bridget Everett, impish Cole Escola, trans icon Justin Vivian Bond and gyrating muscle boy Steel Burkhardt. Everyone but Bond exhibits strut and theatrical confidence, and so despite Wittman’s inability to make the evening sparkle, wonderful moments emerge. Escola sashays into the audience singing “Cigarettes, Cigars!” and hurls packs at them; a teddy-clad Everett scares the bejesus out of us while throwing herself onto that same front row.
Bond (formerly of Kiki & Herb) relies too much on theatergoers already being in love with star and subject alike—preening, dropping lines, then collapsing into poses. It’s a performance of the old Warholian school, all amateurish arrogance. For those who miss that specific tenor, Jukebox is playing their tune.—Helen Shaw