Like it or not, the New Year is rapidly approaching, which means our minds will shortly be turning toward making resolutions and setting intentions for the decade to come. After seeing Taylor Mac’s irreverent seasonal spectacular, Holiday Sauce, I have a new motto—live in such a way that after you’re gone, your friends will create a variety show in your honor that’s so blasphemous and beatific the alt-right website Breitbart will start an entire outrage campaign around it.
For those who don’t know (but you really should), Mac is the multi-hyphenate drag performer, musician, and writer whose gender pronoun is judy with a lower-case J. Perhaps best known for the marathon performance piece A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and being the playwright behind Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, which debuted on Broadway this past spring and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, Mac is no stranger to DC stages (I particular enjoyed Woolly Mammoth’s production of judy’s Hir in 2017).
In Holiday Sauce, Mac takes a decidedly queer hatchet to the most saccharinely sweet of seasons. With a variety of drag and cabaret artists (and special guest. WAMU host Ari Shapiro), Mac presents a radical reimagining of the holidays that includes a butch queer woman Sexual Consent Santa, a burlesque Baby Jesus, and a general takedown of consumerism, late-stage capitalism, and patriarchy-as-spirituality.
But it would be a gross mischaracterization to say that the driving spirit of the show is cynicism and irony. Quite the opposite is true, in fact; Mac suffuses the evening with genuinely gorgeous and celebratory moments (blues legend Thornetta Davis’s rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear,” Stephanie Christi’an’s showstopping version of “Grandma’s Hands,” and having the opportunity to stand on stage with Mac and sing “Fairy Tale of New York” while taking shots of Jameson immediately spring to mind).
These impulses stem not from bitterness, but a desire to create something deeply inclusive. Mac describes truly terrible Christmases spent with his biological and step-grandparents as a child by way of explaining the presence of NEWorks Voices of America, a backing choir comprised of senior citizens; Mac may not have been welcome at previous generations’ holidays celebrations, but judy is going to invite them into his regardless.
Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce has closed.
Another reason for the festive atmosphere is that Holiday Sauce is really a gift to Mac’s mentor and drag mother, Mother Flawless Sabrina, who passed away in 2017, wrapped in the shiny trappings of the holidays. Lots of ink gets spilled about the importance of Chosen Families for queer people, especially around the holidays, but listening to the way Mac describes how Mother Flawless Sabrina took judy under her wing in an AIDS-ravaged New York, I could feel the true spirit of the holidays stronger than in any traditional Christmas carol or Hallmark movie.
Like Santa himself, Holiday Sauce stopped by the Kennedy Center for one night only as part of its tour across the country, but Mac has promised to bring the show back every year, bigger and more fabulous each time. So, be sure to put tickets to this wild and heartwarming show at the top of your list for next year!
Holiday Sauce, conceived, written, performed, and directed by Taylor Mac. Featuring Taylor Mac, Matt Ray, Machine Dazzle, Bernice “Boom Boom” Brooks, Steffanie Christi’an, Thornetta Davis, Viva DeConcini, Antoine Drye, Greg Glassman, J. Walter Hawkes, Marika Hughes, Dana Lyn, Gary Wang, NEWorks Voices of America, James Tigger! Ferguson, Glenn Marla, and Ari Shapiro. Music director and arranger: Matt Ray. Set and costume designer: Machine Dazzle. Co-director: Niegel Smith. Lighting designer: John Torres. Sound designer: Jimin Brelsford. Produced by Pomegranate Arts. Reviewed by John Bavoso.