The title, Comparison is Violence: The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook, would lead to you believe creator and star Taylor Mac was comparing David Bowie's glam rock persona to Johnny Carson's go-to ukulele player.
Not so. Taylor explains early in his one-tran show that he has often been compared to both entertainers, and he uses their music as a springboard to talk about the concept of comparison.
With Taylor's sassy gender-bending glam rock persona, it's hard to imagine there is any pop star worthy of comparison. With arm gesturing up and down, surveying his own fabulousness, Taylor asked, "How many of these do you see in this world?" Unquestionably, the answer is just one.
But there's more to Taylor than glitter and guyliner. Through the big red wig, the glittering face paint, the sparkling outfit, and the heels, there was so much more to Comparison is Violence.
Taylor would slip in a little biography, and then pause and say, we can't get into that. "We'd have to call this a play," Taylor said. "This is a cabaret." In fact, it was a play in the shape of a cabaret. We weren't just humming a tune as we walked out the door. We were thinking.
One older woman told a friend, "I loved how he smiled." She wasn't the only observant audience member looking deeper than the drag. As Taylor delved into religion, politics, and social justice, his performance revealed many layers.
After opening with Ziggy Stardust's "Five Years," Taylor turned to the recently miscalculated rapture and the unwavering commitment some people have to end times. "Everyone likes the idea that they won't have to deal with their problems," Taylor said.
Several bawdy comments were meant to get a rise out of the audience. With every riff on the Confederate flag, Christian missionaries, and Tea Partiers, Taylor would pause and mock a gasp. But, in large part, the audience was in on the joke. These are theatre lovers, after all.
It was quite a mixed crowd, with gays, the typical older Spoletians, and artistic types ... oh, and, as Taylor pointed out, "one peppercorn in a sea of salt," who got pulled onstage and "glittered."
Taylor spent a few minutes explaining Ziggy Stardust to the grey hairs and explaining Tiny Tim to the children of the '70s. Anyone younger than that needed an education in both.
The pairing provided some interesting mash-ups, but they weren't the only artists highlighted in the show. Taylor said one comparison that seems to come up these days is Lady Gaga, who used to attend Taylor's shows in New York. "Clearly, she was taking notes," Taylor said.
Who can blame her. If David Bowie catches wind of this show, he'd be wise to bring Ziggy Stardust to the cabaret stage.
This is Taylor's second trip to Spoleto, which he pointed out jokingly: "Once, shame on me. Twice, shame on you."
He also threatened to come back in a few years for some more fun. Charleston will certainly be ready for more from this ambitious, unique entertainer. Just as Taylor told the audience, "Once the glitter's on, it's on for good."