In the titular song from her ArtPop album, Lady Gaga said: “Come to me in all your glamour and cruelty.” Now, over five years later, the Bushwick-based Glitter Unicorn Sparkle Spectacular is back with their first narrative show with “ArtPop Reborn,” a complete tribute to the seminal 2013 Lady Gaga album.
ArtPop Reborn is the brainchild of local drag queens Pixel Witch, Madame Vivien V, and their cast of queer performers and artists. It notes their third collaboration with the Glitter Unicorn Sparkle Spectacular cast since their debut at the Electric Forest Festival in Michigan in May of 2018. Before all that, Glitter Unicorn Sparkle Spectacular began as a drag brunch run by Pixel and Vivien at House of Yes.
“We had this show called ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’ Drag Brunch [after the Scissor Sisters song ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’]. We’d start the show with the song and invite people to be gossipy and fun and it got wild; people had cattle prods and were doing the worm down the aisle. People got naked,” Pixel said.
When the opportunity to bring a drag show to the Electric Forest Festival in Michigan appeared, Glitter Unicorn Sparkle Spectacular was born.
“I was playing with the name Unicorn Cabaret or Kiki Cabaret. But we were wondering if it had a name that made people go ‘Oh, what is that?’ Then it became the Glitter Unicorn Sparkle Spectacular because it is the most like us,” Pixel said.
With a name like that the show took off—even before the festival began. “We really blew up on Reddit,” Vivien said. “People were like ‘what the hell is going on?!’”
Aside from the initial curious confusion, the show gathered an expanding following for it’s nightly shows in the 800-seat performance main stage at the 45,000-person festival. While the first night the house was about half-full, soon the house was packed, with people on the floor and in the aisles.
“We really did affect people out there,” Vivien said. “We had this one kid who came to every show and the last show he brought his mother. And his mother had never seen a drag show before and it was so beautiful to see them bond in a way that they’d never had the chance before.”
The show brought drag to the far reaches of where it had been before but Vivien, Pixel, and the rest of the cast were ready to bring the show back home to Bushwick with a variety showcase honoring their “Let’s Have a Kiki” heritage. Their newest production, however, tries something new. They created a narrative story, accompanied by dancing, aerial performances, and drag.
Both artists have a history in theater arts and their story shaped up much like a Broadway musical would. The show is a queer love story, told through the Lady Gaga album “ArtPop.” The main character is trying to date in modern times and is learning to navigate the world as a queer femme person.
“Our amazing lead character is this queer individual and we’re taking them on a night out where they find an actual love interest, someone they’re actually connecting with, while struggling to find comfort with themselves,” said Vivian.
Although it’s hard to tell from their confident stage personas, both Pixel and Vivien are no strangers to this lack of comfort with their own queer identities and both performers credit Lady Gaga with their self-acceptance.
“I grew up in the country,” Pixel said. “You had to drive 30 minutes to the nearest grocery store. I heard Lady Gaga and I would choreograph routines to her music. It just awakened something inside me.”
“I was living in Wisconsin in 2010 and going to school for accounting,” said Vivien, who originally hails from a pig farm in Washington state. “I saw that Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster tour was coming and I spent all my money on the best ticket I could find and went to the show on my own. I wasn’t even out of the closet yet. In the front row at the Gaga concert I had never felt more free and I ended up dancing with my first boy at Pride later that year.”
Both performers can’t wait to pay homage to the Mother Monster on Friday, April 5.
“Lady Gaga is such an inspiration for us,” Vivien said. “She came to us at a time that we really needed her. She really is radical expression.”
All photos by Brynne Levy.
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