(Cover Photo: "KIKI AND HERB," aka Kenny Mellman and Mx. Justin Vivian Bond. Photo Credit: Eric McNatt)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
Boch Center Shubert Theatre
TICKETS ON SALE NOW
Tickets are available at the Boch Center Box Office, www.bochcenter.org, by calling (800) 982-ARTS (2787) and via Ticketmaster.
The Shubert Theatre is located at 265 Tremont Street in Boston, MA
Tickets are on sale now at BochCenter.org.
This holiday season, prepare yourself for sleighing belles, rabid yells, and tidings of joy as Tony Award nominees Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman debut their hilarious holiday special "KIKI & HERB: DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR?" at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre on Thursday, December 1st.
Hot off the heels of their sold-out run at Brooklyn Academy of Music last year, this tour will be "KIKI & HERB"’s first shows out of NYC since 2007.
The infamous duo "KIKI & HERB" make their way through a number of seasonal songs, belting Christmas classics off their long-out-of-print (but two tracks will be available on Spotify October 18) album "DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR" and slinging enough cheer to choke down this holiday season.
METRMAG did a "Q&A" with Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman ("KIKI & HERB") to see what fans can look forward to when they return to Boston. Enjoy.
Q – How much of "KIKI & HERB: DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR?" is scripted and how much is improvised?
KENNY: We set up a basic outline with the songs in their place and then Vivian can improvise and riff between songs. There is a biography line, stories “KIKI” tells, then I try to come up with some suprises for each show. It’s important for me that they live in the present which means Kiki is a newshound and very opinionated. She also thinks she’s met EVERYONE.
Q – From where did your characters of “KIKI & HERB” evolve? What were their origins or what were they based on? Did you personally know people like them?
KENNY: “HERB” was based on a lovely man Eddie who played piano at a restaurant in San Francisco where we did one of our first shows "Dixie McCall’s Patterns For Living." He would play piano and drink tequila and as he got drunker he would sit and cry at the piano.
VIVIAN: “KIKI” is an amalgamation of a lots of different people and singers, but the original inspiration was a woman named Peg O’Connor, my college roommates mom who was battling with cancer when I met her but was a terrifically interesting and intelligent woman who had been a “showgirl” in Baltimore in the 1950s and who put herself through college while in her 50s and gotten a degree in social work. She was fierce.
Q – Was there something in particular that drew you both to want to do this type of show or did it all just happen organically?
KENNY: Vivian had already created the character of “KIKI” and we had a show in San Francisco on the night of Pride. Instead of doing the show as ourselves we decided to do it as “KIKI” and we came up with “HERB” and sat before the show and talked in character to the waitresses and then we did our material as these old showbiz characters and we got a standing ovation. There was something freeing about inhabiting these characters which allowed us to get away with things that would perhaps come across as strident if we were to do it as ourselves.
VIVIAN: All I have ever wanted to do with my life is sing and tell stories. Sometimes I tell stories with my visual art, sometimes I write them down, but my favorite thing is to stand in front of an audience of people with drinks in their hands and let ‘er rip.
Q – What has it been like working with one another? Did you rehearse together at all during the Pandemic? What was that experience like for each/both of you as it pertains to “KIKI & HERB?”
KENNY: I find that still, after all these years, we have a synergy and a shorthand that makes rehearsing very organic. We both instinctively know what will work for these characters and we both have an innate way of knowing how to structure a show.
VIVIAN: Our shared history is nearly as long as the fictional characters we portray at this point and probably just as sordid. We are family.
Q - After such a prolonged downtime due to the Pandemic, what is it you enjoy most performing again before live audiences ?
KENNY: I basically moved into a country house with my partner and his whole family for most of the first years of the pandemic so getting to be around other people is an uncommon occurrence. “KIKI & HERB” were always about a sense of community and I feel like in these days it is a joy to be able to share them with an audience.
VIVIAN: I never quit working during the pandemic and I opened up a bunch of venues including The Basilica in Hudson, NY and Joe’s Pub with my band, St. Ann’s Warehouse with the counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in our show “Only an Octave Spart,” and BAM with “KIKI & HERB.” I can tell you I was very happy when the audiences were able to take their masks off and I could hear them laugh and see their faces once again. I missed that very much -the human exchange that makes live theater so magical,
"KIKI" is a washed-up, boozed-up chanteuse, with a voice that is a mixture of Tom Waits and Ethel Merman with a dash of Judy, whose middle age passed her by some time ago.
"HERB," her piano-battering, lifelong accompanist, provides support both musically and emotionally.
Q – Based on that above description - Do “KIKI & HERB” even like one another? What is it that drives your particular characters and keeps them going?
KENNY: If codependency is love then yes, they love each other. “HERB” just wants to keep “KIKI” alive and thriving to the extent that she can.
VIVIAN: “KIKI” has always pushed “HERB” around and fished him out of trouble. She thinks of him as a dysfunctional baby brother and that helps keep her feeling superior which is very important if she’s going to function. She needs to feel like she’s in charge.
Q – In putting together “KIKI & HERB: DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR” what songs have become your favorites from this latest show?
KENNY: It is fun to pull out some Christmas standards, or standards for us such as "Frosty The Snowman" and "Running Up That Hill."
VIVIAN: I enjoy doing “Mary” by Big Thief.
Q – This will be your first time performing at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre in 15 years. (Outside of the Pandemic) What took so long for you to return?
KENNY: We haven’t played a show as "KIKI & HERB" outside of NYC since 2007 so this will be the seal breaking tour.
VIVIAN: Yes, I’ve had a pretty regular residency at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in NYC for the last few decades so I don’t tour too often. I like walking to work.
Q – Outside of the music from "DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR" are there other songs fans of "KIKI & HERB" can expect to hear? Some “deep cuts” perhaps?
KENNY: There will be some old favorites that we haven’t performed since at least 2007.
VIVIAN: I already named one, don’t want to give too much away.
Q - In closing, what do you hope audiences will come away with after seeing “KIKI & HERB: DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR?” at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre in Boston on December 1st?
KENNY: That there is still a place in this world and country for the freaks and outcasts.
VIVIAN: Tour merch and a hangover.
Approximately 90 minutes
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
(Photo: Kiki and Herb, aka Kenny Mellman and Mx. Justin Vivian Bond. Photo Credit: Eric McNatt)
ABOUT THE SHOW
“A hyper-magnified cabaret concert that has the heat and dazzle of great balls of fire.” — The New York Times
Kiki & Herb make their triumphant return to Boston with “KIKI & HERB: DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR” at Boch Center Shubert Theatre. The performance marks their first show in Boston in 15 years.
Kiki & Herb is the creation of Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman.
Whether it’s an evening at Carnegie Hall, a sold-out run at Joe’s Pub, or "Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway (2007 Tony nomination), Bond and Mellman’s signature cocktail of boozy banter, pop-culture shmaltz, and claws-out cultural critique has charmed cities across this nation for more than two decades.
"Kiki" is a washed-up, boozed-up chanteuse, with a voice that is a mixture of Tom Waits and Ethel Merman with a dash of Judy, whose middle age passed her by some time ago.
"Herb," her piano-battering, lifelong accompanist, provides support both musically and emotionally.
As Kiki & Herb, Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman have dazzled audiences around the world for almost two decades with their ground-breaking wildly popular cabaret shows.
They have played the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre, the Sydney Opera House, and New York’s Carnegie Hall.
The duo has also appeared at the Bonn Biennale (Germany), On The Boards (Seattle), the Great American Music Hall (San Francisco), and the Knitting Factory (L.A.).
Kiki & Herb have performed and toured with The Scissor Sisters and Rufus Wainwright.
The duo received an Obie Award for their show "Kiki & Herb: Jesus Wept," and earned a Tony Award nomination for their 2007 show "Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway."
Kiki & Herb have released two albums: Do You Hear What We Hear? featuring Deborah Harry, Isaac Mizrahi, Molly Ringwald, and Rufus Wainwright and Kiki and Herb Will Die For You, a live recording of their Carnegie Hall show.
Mx. Justin Vivian Bond (they, them, their) has appeared on stage (Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Londonʼs West End), screen (Shortbus, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Sunset Stories), television (High Maintenance, Difficult People, The Get Down), nightclub stages (most notably, a decades-long residency at Joeʼs Pub at The Public Theater), and in concert halls worldwide (including Carnegie Hall and The Sydney Opera House).
In December 2019, Justin Vivian Bond made their Vienna Staatsoper debut as Orlandoʼs child in the world premiere of Olga Neuwirthʼs "Orlando."
In 2021 they appeared as the Lounge Singer in Boston Lyric Opera’s streaming opera "Desert In," and made several year end “Best of” lists with their shows "Only an Octave Apart" co-created with counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zack Winokur, and Thomas Bartlett, as well as Kiki & Herb Sleigh at BAM with Kenny Mellman.
Justin Vivian Bond’s visual art and installations have been seen in museums and galleries in the United States (Participant, Inc., and The New Museum) and abroad (Vitrine, London).
Their memoir, "Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels" (Feminist Press), won the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction.
They are the recipient of an Obie, a Bessie, and a Tony nomination, as well as an Ethyl Eichelberger Award, The Peter Reed Foundation Grant, The Foundation for Contemporary Art Grant for Artists, and The Art Matters Grant.
They have self-released several full-length recordings, including "Dendrophile" and "Silver Wells."
As one-half of the legendary punk cabaret duo Kiki & Herb, they toured the world and released two CDs: "Do You Hear What We Hear?" and "Kiki & Herb Will Die for You at Carnegie Hall."
They have a master’s degree in live art from Central Saint Martins College in London and have taught performance composition and Live Art Installation at NYU and Bard College.
Justin Vivian Bond currently divides their time between residences in New York Cityʼs East Village and the Hudson Valley.
Kenny Mellman is one half (with Justin Vivian Bond) of the Tony nominated and Obie and Bessie winning act Kiki & Herb.
His show "Kenny Mellman Is Grace Jones" toured the US, Australia and the UK and his one man musical about gay bashing and homophobia, "Say Sea Boy You Sissy Boy?" was commissioned by Dixon Place.
He co-wrote the musical "At Least It’s Pink" with Michael Patrick King and Bridget Everett at ArsNova.
He also, with Everett and Neal Medlyn, co-created "Our Hit Parade," a downtown NY deconstruction of the pop charts which ran for 4 sold-out years at Joe’s Pub.
He was in the cast and composed the music for "Good For Otto" at The New Group in 2018.
Mellman was in the band "The Julie Ruin" - fronted by Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fame), they released two records and toured extensively.
He was a 2021 recipient of a Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant.
“THE KIKI & HERB: DO YOU HEAR WHAT WE HEAR” national tour is produced by Tony Award and Emmy Award-Winner, Jared Geller.
ABOUT THE BOCH CENTER
The Boch Center is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts institutions and a guardian of the historic Wang and Shubert Theatres. As New England’s largest cultural venue, The Boch Center is home to theater, classical and popular music, dance, comedy, opera, Broadway musicals, family entertainment, and more. Located in Boston’s historic Theater District, The Boch Center also offers a diverse mix of educational, cultural and community outreach initiatives, including the City Spotlights Leadership Program and the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame; collaborates with artists and local nonprofit arts organizations; preserves historic venues; and acts as a champion for Greater Boston’s arts and cultural community.
Learn more at bochcenter.org.