Lisa Lambert Returns to Toronto Fringe with THE DING DONG GIRLS

Lisa Lambert Returns to Toronto Fringe with THE DING DONG GIRLS

Tony-winner Lisa Lambert makes a triumphant return to the Toronto Fringe 19 years after her hit, The Drowsy Chaperone, debuted at the festival. Winner of five Tonys, Drowsy is now one of the most successful-ever Canadian musicals. Will lightning strike twice... or at least strike a drag queen?

Lambert's role as songwriter of The Ding Dong Girls has been a closely held secret. The company even invented a "mysterious" songwriter in the persona of Bill Maestra to help hide Lambert's participation. .

Lambert is an actress, comedy writer and Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning composer, best known for writing the lyrics and music to The Drowsy Chaperone. As a member of the sketch comedy troupe Skippy's Rangers, she won three Canadian Comedy Awards. Lambert has composed songs for feature films including Highway 61, The Boy Who Smells Like Fish and Portrait of a Serial Monogamist. Her songs have been featured in the theatre for Mirth, People Park, Ouch My Toe, The Irish Musical, Honest Ed: The Bargain Musical and All Hams on Deck.

The Ding Dong Girls reunites Lambert with two other Drowsy alumnae: director John Mitchell is one of the original writers of The Drowsy Chaperone and associate director for two early productions, including the Winter Garden for Mirvish; co-writer, co-producer and costume designer Christopher Richards is the original costume designer on all the early Canadian iterations of The Drowsy Chaperone, receiving a Dora nomination for best costume design for the 2002 Passe Muraille production.

Lambert's participation is a crowning example of the incredibly strong showing of musicals at this 30th anniversary of the Toronto Fringe.

Set in Toronto in the early 1990s and inspired by real events, The Ding Dong Girls tells the story of Marni MacDonald, a cross-dressing misfit who gathers together four other young gay men to form a madcap, politically-motivated drag troupe. The five friends hurtle off on a roller-coaster ride of self- delusion to create, both onstage and off, a magical world of power, beauty and sisterhood - a world that stands in stark contrast to the gloomy reality of gay Toronto back then, which threatens the girls with poverty, homophobia, AIDS and boring conventionality.

The Ding Dong Girls grew out of co-writer Christopher Richards' real-life experience running a popular drag troupe in Toronto in the late 1980s and early '90s. Much has been fictionalized in the musical setting of his story, but much of the mayhem and the message remain true.

Co-writer Gordon Bowness wrote about Richards' real-life drag troupe in the nonfiction anthology Queers Were Here, recently published by Biblioasis. Bowness has been documenting and commenting on local queer culture for most of his career as an editor in the LGBT press, including at Xtra, Go Big and In Toronto (now In Magazine). After years as a critic, The Ding Dong Girls is his first play.

The DingDong cast is top-rate, an intriguing mix of young musical theatre talent and professional drag queens, young and old: Graham Conway, Joel Schaefer, Oscar Moreno, Nic Mencia, Miss Fiercalicious and Mama Dominatrix (the star of the original drag troupe that inspired Ding Dong).

A city like Toronto has its own unique history of drag. The Ding Dong Girls offers a snapshot of a very particular time and place, a world very different from our current reality. This musical telling hopes to

bring the topsy-turvydom of Church Street drag cabarets to a much wider audience and greater critical attention. The Ding Dong Girls is a riotous 21st-century cultural queering.

Check out our GoFundMe page for videos, interviews and other background material: gofundme.com/join-the-ding-dong-girls-revolution.

Photo by David Hawe

 

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