Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce
Little Fang Photography

Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce

Conceived, written, performed, and co-directed by Taylor Mac
Co-director Niegel Smith
Music direction and arrangements by Matt Ray
Curran theater, San Francisco,
Through December 1, 2018
Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles
December 14 and 15, 2018

“Holiday Sauce” is an amazing musical show by the super-talented Taylor Mac, who dazzles the audience with Mac’s unique personality, wit and stage presence, songs and terrific band (Matt Ray, music direction and arrangements), over-the-top drag-queen-like costumes, and ultra-glitzy sets (sets and costumes by Machine Dazzle). “Holiday Sauce” is a two-hour intermission-less extravaganza for an adult, gay-friendly audience, because of the explicit sexual content and the special guests who are in various stages of undress to complete starkers.

[Note: judy with a lower case “j” is Taylor Mac’s preferred pronoun instead of he, she or they.] Underlying Mac’s dazzle, however, is the importance of judy’s use of the theater as a tool for inspiring social change. Also, judy successfully charms audiences to participate in works that use the theater to build community.

As a warm-up, Mac talked about the terrible California fires, counterbalancing them with the news of the Democratic House victory. judy made an astute aside about how the whole United States was able to rid itself of romaine lettuce in four days, but can never seem to get rid of guns.

The theme of “Holiday Sauce” is basically about the Christmas holiday but as an antidote to what Christmas has become — a riot of capitalism, a celebration of patriarchy as opposed to spirituality, and the angst that family holiday gatherings can cause. So, judy decried all of the people who have died in the name of Christ and suggested giving verbs as holiday gifts, like the gift of a massage or other intimate offerings, rather than presents that cost money.

Mac is in control of all aspects of the performance, although judy may feign otherwise. Mac sang some Christmas songs, saying judy likes holiday tunes, but not necessarily their messages. So, when Mac called on the audience to sing “Oh, Holy Night,” judy suggested that the audience use judy’s proposed hand gestures to accompany and therefore ameliorate certain offending lyrics.

Mac has a wonderful singing voice and knows how to deliver a song in the best old-fashioned sense of that phrase. judy’s version of “Silent Night” with its jazzy instrumental interlude, was a standout. A chorus of “seniors” and Mac sang the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” accompanied by judy’s commentary about its lyrics.

One of the messages of “Holiday Sauce” is about the societal importance of nonconformity and the personal importance of self-acceptance. Mac memorialized judy’s mentor, an LGBT activist, drag queen, performer, and actor known as Mother Flawless Sabrina, who died last year at the age of 78. judy recited some of Mother Flawless Sabrina’s aphorisms, including “You’re the boss, applesauce,” and “Normal is only a setting on a dryer” and “Irreverence is a tool, not a way of life.” She must have been a remarkable person.

Mac Taylor, creator of “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” is a MacArthur Fellow (the “genius award”), a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama and the recipient of multiple awards, including the Kennedy Prize, a NY Drama Critics Circle Award, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim, the Herb Alpert in Theater, the Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, two Bessies, two Obies, a Helpmann, and an Ethyl Eichelberger Award. Mac is set to make judy’s Broadway debut as a playwright this spring with the new play, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus,” starring Andrea Martin and Nathan Lane.

Emily S. Mendel

©Emily S. Mendel 2018 All Rights Reserved

San Francisco ,
Emily S. Mendel, a writer and photographer, has been a regular contributor to culturevulture.net since 2006, where she reviews theater, art, film, television and destinations. Ending her 30-year law practice has given Ms. Mendel the time to indulge in her love of travel and the arts, and to serve as the theater reviewer for berkeleyside.com.