“And what do we say about historical accuracy?” a newly resurrected, glittering Edith Piaf asked the crowd assembled outside of Philadelphia’s historic Eastern State Penitentiary on Saturday.
“BOOO,” they responded with glee.
That’s pretty much the best way to begin to try to explain The Bearded Ladies’ Bastille Day show at on Fairmount Avenue. This was their 23rd show, and this year they found themselves swimming in material to fuel the elaborate political satire that is their annual “re-enactment” of the storming of the Bastille, a defining moment in 1789 that preceded the French Revolution.
With songs like Madonna’s “Material Girl” re-imagined as “Dystopian Girl,” “Ça Ira” (a song from the French Revolution) mashed up with Le Tigre’s “Get Off the Internet,” and Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” performed by Joan of Arc, the show targeted the heart of the audience.
The show kicked off, for the first time, with drag performances from the Attic Youth Center by Dalyla Mizani Cristal and Tiffany Masacre. Masacre’s performance commented on healthcare and queer social issues — themes that would echo throughout performance.
Then Vlad (aka Vladimir Putin) appeared behind a podium, a la Sean Spicer, stating that Ms. Edith Piaf would not be able to resurrect and host the siege. But on theme of defeating “fake news,” Edith rose from the dead and rappelled down the wall of Eastern State Penitentiary.
On stage she was joined by French heroine Joan of Arc (cue the fireworks), and American historical figures Benjamin Franklin and Sojourner Truth, who sang and rapped.
During the show, Joan of Arc sang about the need to disconnect from the Internet and start a revolution. She then made a real phone call to Senator Pat Toomey and called on the audience to tell Toomey what they’d miss because of his votes. A block full of Philadelphians left their grievances on his voicemail and Joan promised, “We’ll see you on Tuesday,” referring to weekly protests held outside Toomey’s Philadelphia office.
The characters Dr. Bread and Company concluded the retelling of the story of the revolution by complaining about the shortage of bread. Marie Antoinette, portrayed by Terry McNally of London Grill, and her minions threw down thousands of Tastykakes onto the citizens below.
After the show, the crowd dispersed toward the many drink specials and bluegrass music that filled the area surrounding the penitentiary.