Theater Preview: THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS – IN CONCERT (Life Jacket Theatre Co. at Joe’s Pub)

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by Mia Bonadonna on June 2, 2020

in Theater-New York


Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theaters around the world, a slew of stage and cabaret favorites got together at Joe’s Pub to celebrate the vibrancy of NYC’s hidden gay community in the 1920s and ’30s. This terrific concert is just a taste of things to come: Life Jacket Theatre Co’s fantastical play — based on true events — opens in 2021.

Now, The Gorgeous Nothings: In Concert will be available to stream for 48 hours beginning at 8pm EST, June 20, 2020, as part of the Playbill Playback series to raise funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The Gorgeous Nothings reconstructs the extraordinary story of a group of gay men, trans women, and crossdressers unjustly imprisoned and quarantined on New York City’s Welfare Island (later renamed Roosevelt Island) during the 1930s for committing “lewd and unnatural acts which offend the public decency” (New York Penal Law 722, Section 690). The concert features rarely heard songs of the era, reflecting the diverse queer communities that pulsed beneath the surface of NYC over 40 years before the Stonewall riots.

Melding historical fact and expansive storytelling, The Gorgeous Nothings reimagines a rich and complex historical tapestry based on interviews, archival documents, and prison records. Woven together, these disparate artifacts tell the obscured and forgotten story of a community of fabulous, fierce, and fearless pioneers during the 1930s who led a silent but powerful revolution, bravely building the foundation of the modern gay liberation movement, decades before Stonewall.

As noted in George Chauncey’s groundbreaking book, Gay New York, “The gay world that flourished before World War II has been almost entirely forgotten in popular memory and overlooked by professional historians; it is not supposed to have existed.” This play provides an unprecedented peek through a secret keyhole that has been largely forgotten – an interwoven and intoxicating tale of history, sex, scandal, and politics.

The Gorgeous Nothings stars Kevin Smith Kirkwood (Kinky Boots), James Jackson Jr. (A Strange Loop), Stephen DeRosa (Boardwalk Empire), The Skivvies’ Nick Cearley, Aaron Kaburick (Mrs. Doubtfire), Devin Ilaw (Miss Saigon), and Seth Sikes, with special guest emcee Beth Kirkpatrick (Hello, Dolly!), and introductions by Maclain Whelan Dassatti, Kyle Price, and Benjamin Walker. The show was helmed by Life Jacket Theatre Company Artistic Director Travis Russ, with music direction and arrangements by Joe Kinosian (Murder for Two).

historical photographs from private collections (Sébastien Lifshitz & Arthur Fellig) and the New York Daily News


The Gorgeous Nothings: In Concert
Life Jacket Theatre Company
co-streamed by Jessica Genick and Playbill
June 20, 2020, at 8pm EST — then available until Wed, June 24
for more info, visit Life Jacket or Playbill

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