Review: THE CONFESSIONS OF LILY DARE at New Conservatory Theatre Center

With drag performances, zany plot, and an ensemble cast, the play is tailor-made for a night of light camp, cheap laughs, and an homage to early female roles.

Review: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at Berkeley Repertory Theatre

No one does sendups of old Hollywood camp and fallen women better than Charles Busch (Red Scare on Sunset) and The Confessions of Lily Dare piles the satire on thick in this madcap story of one woman’s rise and fall set in the backdrop of San Francisco’s bawdy and lecherous Barbary Coast. Originally starring Busch himself, who clearly honors the actresses and genre but finds the humor in the insaneness of the subject matter, the heavy burden of pulling this show off lies squarely on the shoulders of J. Conrad Frank, no stranger to drag performance.

Review: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Adam KuveNiemann and J. Conrad Frank.

His Lily is, as most drag characters, larger than life and over-exaggerated. Good for mining laughs with wild eye gestures, vocal inflections, and embellished gestures. Frank understands Busch’s love of these time-honored actresses like Dietrich, Davis and Crawford and also finds the pathos of the characters adding a dimension that rises above mere caricature.

Review: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at Berkeley Repertory Theatre
J. Conrad Frank and LaMont Ridgell. 

The plot is wild and zany, with the doe-eyed innocent Lily coming to live with her Aunt in San Francisco who happens to be a notorious Madame. Winning over the geeky piano player (Adam KuveNiemann) and a prostitute (Sakura Nakahara) they become her lifelong friends and protectors.  Lily wants to sing opera but along the way falls in love, gets pregnant and her betrothed is killed in the 1906 earthquake.

Review: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Adam KuveNiemann, J. Conrad Frank, and Sakura Nakahara.

She’s involved in scandal, sent to for a crime she didn’t commit and is forced to abandon her daughter Louise. Here Busch is refencing films like The Sins of Madelon Claudet  and the premiere tearjerker Madame X.  Lily becomes a drunken cabaret singer singing “Pirate Joe” ala Marlene Dietrich’s recalling of Kurt Weil’s “Pirate Jenny”.

The ensemble cast deliver delicious over-the-top performances: Marie O’Donnell as the no-nonsense Aunt Rosalie and Louise, the daughter searching for her birthmother, LaMont Ridgell as Casino Lambert, and Kalon Thibodeaux as Louis. The costumes by Ruby V Suglliuzzo and gowns for Frank by David Glamamore are divine. With its San Francisco setting, and our long history of drag, The Confessions of Lily Dare is tailor-made for a night of light camp, cheap laughs and an homage to the early female roles that defined an era.

The Confessions of Lily Dare continues through June 11th. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (415) 861-8972.

Photo Credit: Lois Tema


Cast and Creative Team Revealed For OTHELLO at San Jose Stage Company

San Jose Stage Company has announced the full cast and creative team for The Stage’s upcoming Jazz-Infused Adaptation of William Shakespeare’s OTHELLO.

Review: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at Berkeley Repertory Theatre

What did our critic think of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN at Berkeley Repertory Theatre?

San Francisco Opera's Italian Roots Celebrated in New Museo Italo Americano Exhibition

The Museo Italo Americano celebrates the 100th anniversary of San Francisco Opera with a new exhibition: BRAVO—Celebrating San Francisco Opera, Its Italian Roots and Legacy. Presented in partnership with San Francisco Opera and Museum of Performance + Design, the exhibition runs through October 22, 2023 at the Museo Italo Americano located at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

Merola Opera Program kicks off its 2023 Summer Festival With METAMORPHOSIS

San Francisco’s internationally acclaimed Merola Opera Program kicks off its 2023 Summer Festival with Metamorphosis: Recovery, Renewal, and Rebirth, an uplifting vocal and piano concert featuring a rich array of songs that explore the many facets of transformation.

From This Author - Steve Murray

Steve Murray is a writer for Cabaret Scenes magazine, contributor to ForAllEvents and now BroadwayWorld. He started writing rock reviews for his college newspaper in the 1970’s, produced a varie... (read more about this author)


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