I love being introduced to new artists, especially those who have their own style! Jonny Woo definitely has a style all his own. As one of London's most celebrated alternative cabaret artists, Jonny Woo got his start, right here in NYC. When Chip Duckett from Spin Cycle suggested I interview Jonny for his upcoming return engagement of Glitter in the Groove at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, I got all sparkly for the occasion!
Mixing tongue twisters, rap and spoken word with original satirical and personal songs and the occasional indulgent lip-sync, Glitter in the Groove explains how a county lad got to rule London’s nightlife via a drag education on New York’s Lower East Side. Expect new songs as well as a reprise of showstoppers such as his one man "Les Mis," his club hit "Faggot" and his anthem to a decade in drag, "Glitter In The Groove."
Glitter in the Groove will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre from September 3-5 (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue inside the West Bank Cafe). Click here for tickets!
1. After an acclaimed debut this past March, this September you are returning to The Laurie Beechman theatre with your show Glitter in the Groove. What are you looking forward to most about returning to NYC with this show? I love connecting with my friends and with the city which inspired me so much over a decade ago. It was such a liberating experience spending time here at the start of my career and the downtown drag and burlesque scene totally influenced the direction I was going to take artistically. It always feels like coming home when I come to NYC.
2. What do you like best about performing at The Laurie Beechman Theatre? Apart from it's association with Joan Rivers, which always gives me goose bumps having seen her perform here a few years back. It's a great cabaret space. Totally designed for that laid back, conversational style of performance which I love and is part of not just my show but the kind of shows by artists who I have always admired such as Justin Vivian Bond.
3. With Glitter in the Groove, you explain how a county lad got to rule London’s nightlife via a drag education on New York’s Lower East Side. What made you originally want to tell your story? What have you enjoyed most about performing this show? Well, this show is loosely based on a show I did in London a short while ago. I have had to take out some of the pieces as NYC audiences wouldn't get the reference points but the basic story is pretty universal. Small town boy, gets a dull job then finds himself in the big lights of an amazing city and there is no looking back. I'm still putting the finishing touches onto the show so I hope it feels really fresh and right up to date and actually comments a bit on where I am now. There are a lot of original songs in it, some from collaborations with other artists here in London, which are the strongest pieces. There are also some pieces from my previous show here so if you missed the "Les Mis" bit, it's coming back!
4. What do hope audiences come away with after seeing Glitter in the Groove? I get a bit mischievous on stage so whilst the bare bones of the show will stay the same a lot of it may vary night by night. I like to play and improvise, depending on my mood. I hope audiences come away feeling like I've given them a style and show which maybe they don't get to see in NYC. London style!
6. You are one of London's most celebrated alternative cabaret artists with multiple residencies over the years. What has it been like to watch yourself become such a success? It's been incredible to see how life unfurls when you look back on it. Sometimes it's been hard and I've not always appreciated the opportunities that come my way. Having turned 40 I hope I've learned most of the necessary lessons now and I am grateful to those who want to help and enjoy the work I produce. I have always wanted to keep things fresh and I intend to keep challenging myself. When I started out in NYC in 2000 I had no idea the trajectory things would take, it really has been on e helluva ride and a huge amount of fun.
7. In 2014, you opened up your own performance pub in London called The Glory. What made you want to have your own performance pub? What has been the best part about this venture? This venture is really new. My boyfriend Colin suggested we do it actually and I resisted at first, but I have always wanted my own space to create work and nurture other artists. It's great seeing people embrace our ideas and see new talent give performing a go for the first time or watching an artists develop their craft.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? I actually saw this advice via a fridge magnet on my friend Brandon Olson's fridge. It said "You've come to New York to be an artist, so be one." Working with Brandon was an incredible experience and my first at working as and calling myself an artist and this "advice" has stayed with me ever since. You want to do something, then do it!
10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Photographic memory.
11. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? Glitter in The Groove - one part glamour, two parts absurdity, splash of ridiculousness, a little pathos, muddled together and sprinkled with edible glitter.
Wonderfully unpredictable and hilariously anarchic, Woo is the crème de la crème of British ‘alternative’ drag. Jonny Woo is one of London’s most celebrated alternative cabaret artists. Having cut his teeth back in the early 2000’s in New York creating work with performance artist and friend Brandon Olson, he returned home to the UK to fashion himself a scene in East London. It was here he developed his inimitable performance style that is unequivocally English. Woo has been resident at The Soho Theatre, having presented 8 shows and his infamous Gay Bingo, which celebrated 10 years at The Hackney Empire last October. He has had work commissioned by The Royal Opera House, The Institute Of Contemporary Arts and The Royal Festival Hall. He has been the host of London music festival Lovebox for 5 years and heads The Downlow at Glastonbury every year. He has been accredited with kick starting the queer performance scene in East London and recently presented his show, The East London Lecture about local gentrification. He is currently touring his project TRANS(former), a rock show based on the music from Lou Reed’s album, Transformer. He has his own performance pub, The Glory that opened December 2014.