Rating: (4 out of 5) Sunday, 10/19/2008, 3:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at 6th & I Synagogue
”IT’S IMPORTANT we aren’t reduced to the level of clowns,” says Ben Schatz about his Kinsey Sicks drag-a-cappella group. And sure enough, in this engaging, exceptional documentary, Ken Bielenberg reveals a deeper side and a darker history to this merry band of singing Mary’s that formed on a lark and is known for singing songs, both originals and covers, with alternatively ribald and barbed lyrics. Schatz calls the all-gay group a cross between Bette Midler, Divine and Manhattan Transfer — or ”a girl group made of boys,” as one of their lyrics puts it.
The documentary follows this foursome as they prepare to make their debut on the Las Vegas strip, starting out with a performance from a couple years ago organized by One In Ten here in D.C. In turn we meet each Kinsey, as well as their families, all good-natured and supportive of their sons’ full-time careers as women. Schatz, a one-time advisor to Bill Clinton on HIV/AIDS policy, is a founding member of the group, which formed in the mid-1990s. At the time, the gay community was still suffering gravely from the AIDS crisis — protease inhibitors had not yet come to market to make the disease less of a death sentence. A decade later, another founding member, Jerry Freedman, was lost to crystal meth addiction, a more recent scourge.
Bielenberg, who also handled the group’s live concert film from two years ago, seamlessly and effortlessly weaves together the various threads to the group’s backstory. He never loses sight of the purpose — to portray the success, and inevitably the stress, of taking the show to Vegas, a town known for drinking, not thinking. The Kinsey Sicks encourage both, of course, so Vegas becomes the group’s biggest gamble yet. If they can make it there….
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