Anita Procedure (aka: the Baritone Bombshell) is definitely, as she purports to be, an “Adult Entertainer.” And, perhaps, her bawdy, sometimes lewd, sense of humor is something that may be more expected at the Ice Palace, on Fire Island, rather than the posh Laurie Beechman Theatre. But, make no mistake about it, Ms. Procedure (aka: Jonathan Reinhart) has a lot to say, and a great voice with which to say it.
In the genre of Drag Performance, there have been a few “ladies” who have broken out to become genuine stars in Cabaret, Tommy Femia (Judy Garland), Steven Brinberg (Barbra Streisand), Jeffery Roberson (Varla Jean Merman), and in more recent years Chuck Sweeney (Peggy Lee) and Ray DeForest (Doris Dear) among them. And maybe, just maybe, Mr. Jonathan Reinhart will carve out his niche as successfully.
Unlike the other performers mentioned above, however, Mr. Reinhart creates Anita’s persona out of thin air, while still retaining an otherwise masculine identity, giving Ms. Procedure a more “trans, non-binary” sensibility, which can be very appealing to a millennial, app-savy audience. And, dressed in elegant, tight-fitting gowns, with just the right amount of edgy, slutty-ness, She/he reminds one of a cross between Sophie Tucker, Bette Midler and Justin Bieber.
But, what is most appealing about this performer, is the non-apologetic truth with which he delivers his/her performance. Throughout the show, Mr. Reinhart takes us on his journey, as a young musical theater star in high school, to his eventual foray into drag; his short-lived, if not-so-accidental career as a gay bareback porn star, and his eventual acceptance and love, for the man/woman he/she has become.
Displaying a multi-octave range, his voice easily handled songs like “I Feel Pretty” (L. Bernstein), “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” (E. James, L. Kirkland, P. Woods) and “Touch a Touch a Touch Me” (R. Hartley, R. O’Brien). And his comic timing and flair for alternate lyrics became evident with a hilarious performance of “Loosen Up My Butt-hole” (set to the Pussycat Dolls’ “Loosen Up My Buttons”)
Of particular note was Mr. Reinhart’s performance of Lady Gaga’s “Do What You Want (with my body),” arranged and performed with an exotic combination of celebration and sorrow, as he recounted his career as a male porn star. And, another hilarious moment, “Where The Boys Are” (N. Sedaka, H. Greenfield) sung while surfing on Grindr, and reading actual messages aloud.
Supporting this emotionally naked performer were two outstanding (and virtually naked) musicians, clad only in overall-shorts, sans shirt. Brothers, Jack Lipson (Piano) and Benny Lipson (Bass), together known simply as Jack Benny, are a fantastic duo in their own rite, and their original songs “Asking For a Friend” and “Queer” were both highlights of the evening, and recommended by this reviewer as best original song(s) of the season. Listen to them.
Having spent some time in the world of cross-gender, live-singing performance myself, I am very particular about this genre of cabaret performance. And although it took a couple of numbers for Anita Procedure to win me over, her effortless and easy vocal range, self-deprecating sense of humor, and absolutely unapologetic candor certainly did.
Ms. Procedure, welcome to New York!