When he takes to the stage of New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below this week, John Epperson will be getting back to his roots — in more ways than one.
"I was trained as a classical pianist and did traditional musical comedy when I was in college and after. But that was before I moved to New York," Epperson, 60, told The Huffington Post in an interview.
To face his fear, Epperson created one of the world’s most legendary drag queens, Lypsinka, in the 1980s. As it turns out, Epperson’s decision to gender-bend paid off. Lypsinka proceeded to make the stage and screen rounds, most recently in the off-Broadway revival of the classic musical, "Once Upon A Mattress," last year in New York.
Epperson’s new act, "An Evening With Lypsinka’s Maid," will see him stripping away the artifice once more for an eclectic set of standards and lesser-known Broadway show tunes. The star says fans of Lypsinka will hopefully enjoy the show, too.
"I just love to sing and play the piano, and I want the audience to not only see it, but enjoy it," he said. "I hope my enjoyment is contagious. It’s a challenge to make oneself vulnerable, but it’s a must."
Although Lypsinka made a name for herself years before "RuPaul’s Drag Race" became a smash, Epperson is unsure of how he’d have risen to fame in a world dominated by the likes of Bianca Del Rio, Pandora Boxx and Sheangela, among other famous queens.
"I would never attempt it," he said of the smash Logo series. "I had The Pyramid Club as a launching pad in the ’80s, similar to Bette Midler’s launching pad in the ’70s, the Continental Baths."
As drag becomes more prominent in mainstream popular culture, he said, there is a downside.
"One young person who wants to be a drag performer — someone who has traditional theatre training — told me he finds the drag field over-saturated," he said. "That’s probably true."
For now, Epperson is just happy to be himself, and sees his Feinstein’s/54 Below run as a chance for audiences to see him "not hiding behind a mask of makeup and someone else’s voice."
John Epperson performs in "An Evening With Lypsinka’s Maid" at New York’s Feinstein’s/54 on Jan. 20, 21 and 23. Head here for more details.
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