Interview: Kim David Smith Dishes on Upcoming Solo Show MORE MOSTLY MARLENE at Joe's Pub

Kim David Smith, dubbed "the male Marlene Dietrich," will be at Joe's Pub on February 6th at 9:30 pm.

By: Jan. 22, 2024
Interview: Kim David Smith Dishes on Upcoming Solo Show MORE MOSTLY MARLENE at Joe's Pub

Interview: Kim David Smith Dishes on Upcoming Solo Show MORE MOSTLY MARLENE at Joe's Pub

Kim David Smith, dubbed "the male Marlene Dietrich," will be performing his new show "More Mostly Marlene" on Tuesday February 6th, 9:30 pm at Joe's Pub. We spoke a bit about the show, Smith's inspirations behind mounting it, and a bit of what you can expect from the night. Read on below. (This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

RK: Can you tell me a bit about your show?

KDS: I've been in love with German Weimar cabaret since I can remember, rewinding “Mein Herr” over and over again as a kid and just being like, when, when will I be Sally Bowles?

Anyway, fast forward to 2016 and Stephen Holden comes to one of my shows, suggesting me to be a male Marlene Dietrich in the New York Times. And I'm like, you know what, I've loved Marlene my whole life. Why am I not… the universe is telling me, you know, shrug yourself into the nude illusion dress. Not that I actually have one, but you know, into the metaphorical nude illusion dress, and just get to work, Mr. Smith.

And so, I have done so over the years. We premiered “Mostly Marlene,” in March 2020 [laughs]. It was the last thing I did all that year outside of a virtual concert. We did the show, I got home, got horribly sick… I believe that to have been my first of a humiliating five bouts with COVID (not to get deeply medically personal). But a fantastic little show was born. And since then, I've been lucky enough to perform Mostly Marlene in Australia at the Alan Cummings edition of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and have performed it at Club Cumming an untold number of times since.

I perform it at the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue, which I think is truly my cabaret home. They're so good to me. I love performing in Café Sabarsky. It's just so correct and it's fun to tell dick jokes in a really exquisite space.

I’ve been morphing and changing the show over the years, adding songs, discarding songs, all in collaboration with my longtime music director and close friend, Tracy Stark.

And to me, while it is most certainly a worshipful evening, truly it's mostly about myself, as all of my shows are, as I think all good shows are about the actual person on stage. Because, you know, you don't want to stray into lecture territory. I at least don’t wish to. If somebody else does, then you know, good for them. I celebrate that.

But for me it's a séance. It’s how we see ourselves, especially gay and queer people. It's like how we see ourselves and find ourselves through these icons. So further to that notion, it's certainly a show about myself in the setting of Marlene Dietrich, but it is littered with my other alliterative favorites, Liza Minelli, M for Minelli, and then, of course, capital M for Minogue, Kylie Minogue, she's truly my Jesus. We went and saw her in Vegas, my husband and I, in December. It was the most special night I have had as a human; so wild, so intimate, so stunning. Turns out, she’s a better cabaret artist than most, and I absolutely include myself in that mix! She just, wow, out of control talented; skilled, funny, so present. It was just heaven.

Anyway, this show suggests the way that we as queer people find ourselves through these illuminated, stunning, amazing, charismatic, talented women. And, all of that aside, it is a funny show as well. It's jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes. Basically, my goal on stage is to sing well, but to also be a Silly Billy. That's all it is. People want to connect with you. They want to see the fun and silly side of you. And that's essentially what I am. I’m a Silly Billy poured into a very expensive custom leather tuxedo. [laughs]

RK: What's been the most fun part for you about channeling Marlene Dietrich and these other women?

KDS: I really love researching. I really, really love it. And I think if you don't love researching, then I hope you're a marvelous creator. I like to think that I can wear both of those shoes at the same time. But the most fun thing for me in researching Marlene, which I’ve really been doing since I was 15 years old when my dad brought home a biography on Marlene, it’s her quotes. She's so aggressive. My husband and I were watching an old concert of hers just a couple of weekends ago, because that’s what we do, being gay, and she basically does her first little set and then she leaves for no reason. She comes back, no costume change or anything, and states, “Would the photographers please go home? You are bothering the audience and you are distracting.” Just so dry. Another example from an older concert is probably my favorite: “Who's talking? Shut up!”

So, for me, the fun is in finding those moments and while not necessarily replicating them, being available with that abrupt sense of her. From a musical standpoint, I've always worked with a sense of stillness. In acting school, the head of the department told us, “If you hear the same feedback three times, then you can start paying attention to it. Otherwise, it's just noise, and after a show, it is all kind of just noise.” After shows I would keep hearing, “oh, your stillness is so exquisite,” which is something that people have often said about Marlene herself. So, it's really fun to sew those two companionable elements from both of us together.

RK: Can you give us a little preview of one or two of the most fun songs that you've been excited to incorporate?

KDS: Right now, I'm desperately learning Kylie Minogue’s “Padam Padam” in French. One of my favorite friends and favorite cabaret artists is Gay Marshall, she's a literal  American in Paris, and is so phenomenal. She has crafted a gorgeous translation just for me to sing, and I couldn’t feel luckier. We’re stylistically burglarizing Edith Piaf’s “Padam,” and I was just like, we’ve got to do the whole thing in French, we’ve just got to do it. So, I'm really excited about that number rearing its head, especially with Matt Podd’s divine accordion work therein.

We also do Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret completely auf Deutsch, which is a scream.

RK: What do you think it is that makes Weimar Germany era still so relevant today?

KDS: Well, alas, that period is becoming increasingly relevant again. Some of the songs I’m singing in this show are 100 years old now which is so bananas to acknowledge. But, the divisive politics, flagrant lying and corruption…the Trumpiness. We've seen it all before, and I have to wonder if folks realize it’s all happened before, I think, because the education system is like, oh God [laughs]. Is anyone learning history? Is anyone paying attention to history? Because we are, indeed, repeating it.

RK: Is there anything else that you want to share about the show?

KDS: It's going to be recorded for my next album, for which I have recorded bonus track duets with Joey Arias, Charles Busch, my own mother and others who I’ve yet to get into the studio. I'm so excited about the performance itself on February 6th and the fact that it is contributing to a greater project that I'm even more excited about.

I'm really looking forward to filling this room up with people who are keen for a great night, who can whoop and hoot and whistle and just have an absolute ball and wind up on my next album with me.

Kim David Smith will present “More Mostly Marlene” at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette Street, New York), Tuesday, February 6. Doors at 9 pm, performance at 9:30 pm. $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Please visit www.publictheater.org for reservations.

Follow @kimdavidsmith Instagram




Videos