Taking the stage as the same character for 15 years can take a toll on a performer. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say, even if the overly familiar is something deeply loved.
”There have been times I’ve been putting on that makeup and just crying,” says Justin Bond, a.k.a. Kiki, the never-say-die cabaret performer who comprises half of the famed duo Kiki & Herb.
Kenny Mellman, who plays the not-so-talkative musical backbone Herb, says that their success had led to a creative stifling: ”After a while, it becomes the same thing over and over.”
Kiki and Herb
(Photo by Ruven Afanador)
But after some time spent reenergizing — Bond now lives in London studying scenography, while Mellman lives and performs regularly in New York — they’re back together for an all-new show, Kiki & Herb: The Resurrection Tour.
It’s been a long road to resurrection since the two birthed the characters 15 years ago during the height of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, when a sense of anger fueled their tragicomic mix of character drama and cabaret interpretations of rock standards.
”We were making apocalyptic art because we thought the world was going to end,” says Bond. ”I still have all the rage and all the anger, but I just don’t feel like that’s the primary driving force. I want to enjoy my life.”
By re-approaching their long-time characters, they’ve recreated the show with new stories and new songs — which you’ll just have to come and see for yourself, as they don’t want to give away their surprises. And they may be surprising themselves, as well.
”We enjoy each other as performers, so it’s fun to flex those muscles on stage,” says Mellman, who’s Herb is becoming a bit more vocal from behind his piano these days. ”Neither of us knows what’s going to happen next.”
A little bit anarchic? Maybe. A touch of melodrama? Possibly. A rocking way to spend the evening?
Kiki & Herb: The Resurrection Tour plays at Woolly Mammoth, 641 D St. NW, Thursday thru Sunday, Oct. 20-23. Tickets are $36-$44. Call 202-393-3939 or visit www.woollymammoth.net.