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Comedy, pathos share equal billing in drag-queen musical

What: "Jaded, Bitter...and Proud of it!" Where: The Playground in Duluth's Technology Village When: 7:30 tonight through Saturday and Sept. 7-8; and 2 p.m. on Sept. 9. Tickets: $10 For information: Call 733-7555 or go to www.duluthplayground.org ...

What: "Jaded, Bitter...and Proud of it!"

Where: The Playground in Duluth's Technology Village

When: 7:30 tonight through Saturday and Sept. 7-8; and 2 p.m. on Sept. 9.

Tickets: $10

For information: Call 733-7555 or go to www.duluth playground.org

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The review: Drag queen Sharron Shabang tells the story of her life in this cathartic musical evening of comedy and confession.

"Jaded, Bitter...and Proud of It" is described as "A one drag queen musical in two frocks." But, oh, honey, you should see the headdresses.

The show is written and performed by Sharron Shabang, and of course she walks like she talks, and she talks like she walks. In my experience, drag queens usually are this funny but seldom look this stunning.

Sharron tells the story of how she discovered she was gay and what has happened to make her, well, jaded and bitter. This is an intensely personal show, openly biographical, brutally honest in both its stories and language, frequently hysterical and ultimately cathartic.

"Jaded" has as many show-stopping laughs as it does original songs, of which there are seven, backed by a band comprised, on Friday night, of a keyboard, drums and a pair of cellos that promised pathos.

The funniest song is the drolly ironic "Old Fashioned Romance." However, most of these songs prove to be quite poignant. "The Good in Me" is sung to the parents who have turned away from their gay son. "You'll Always Have a Friend" provides the most emotional moment of the evening, a song of unspoken words to a lost lover.

The line that crystallizes this show for me comes in "Karma," in which Sharron sings: "Don't ask me what I want in the future, 'cause I'm still fighting the ghosts of the past."

"Jaded, Bitter ... and Proud of It" is about exorcising those ghosts, and dressing up in a pair of sequined frocks to confront her past took away nothing from Sharron's emotional exfoliation on stage before an extremely enthusiastic opening night audience.

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The show's title is revealed to be ironic, because Sharron might be bitter about Jeff (rightfully so), but she is hardly jaded by her life. The show's "So Here I Am" finale is all about being proud.

Sharron Shebang does not hide the fact that underneath all those sequins there is a boy named Kevin, but then the point of the evening is to name names and to sing both about and to the ghosts of her past.

Last year was Kevin Belanger's first season with the Minnesota Ballet. His last appearance on stage was as the magical Mr. Mistoffelees in "Cats" in which he was showcased making a lengthy series of fouette turns. Tonight capped off a spectacular first year for him in Duluth.

Not everybody is inclined to see a drag queen show, but those who check out this one will most certainly be touched by this musical evening of comedy and confession.

LAWRANCE BERNABO teaches humanities and English courses at Lake Superior College, and is the No. 2 reviewer at Amazon in both the United States and Canada.

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