Bad news for Bianca Del Rio fans: She’s dead. But luckily for Angelenos and those who will otherwise be in Los Angeles this weekend, you’ll find her haunting the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre. On Saturday, Dec. 2, for one night only in Hollywood, Del Rio will play the titular role in Sheetlejuice, a drag-based stage production that parodies the 1988 Michael Keaton film bearing a very similar name.
The stage show is the brainchild of the one and only Peaches Christ, a San Francisco legend in her own right who has become notorious for the drag-infused parodies she writes and directs, which typically star some of the biggest names in the drag biz.
We recently sat down with both queens — while they were in their respective cross-country homes of San Francisco and New York City — about their plans to invade Los Angeles this weekend.
We caught Peaches Christ fresh off another of her infamous parody stage shows — Trixie and Katya’s High School Reunion, which played to packed houses at the Castro Theater two weeks ago. On that show’s star power, who just saw their very own cable show premiere, Peaches says, “Their fans — I swear, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I’ve done drag for two decades, and the only thing I can liken it to is Trixie Mattel and Katya are a drag version of the Beatles or something. It’s crazy.”
Bianca Del Rio has been a busy lady as well. When we spoke to the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner, she’d been home a mere three hours from tour dates in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore (with South America, the United States and Europe still to come in 2018). Del Rio’s current comedy tour, Blame It on Bianca Del Rio, has the drag world’s “Queen of Mean” quite literally traversing the globe. On her first time taking a show to Asia and connecting with Asian fans, Del Rio tells us, “The only way tickets get sold is if they’ve watched Drag Race. So they do have somewhat of an idea of who I am. Either that or they’re just totally convinced that I’m Hello Kitty.”
As tough as it can be for any two big-name drag stars to coalesce their packed itineraries, in this instance it’s for the most worthy of causes. Sheetlejuice first premiered in San Francisco a year ago, playing to sold-out crowds at the city’s Castro Theater, which acts as a home base of sorts for Peaches Christ’s many stage shows. But bringing her productions to an L.A. crowd is something the San Franciscan writer, director and drag star is hoping to do more of in the future.
“A big part of the challenge in Los Angeles has been finding the right home for our shows,” Peaches Christ says. “Fingers crossed this goes well. The Montalbán is really, really nice. I think you’re gonna be impressed.”
So much more than a straightforward remake of its source material Beetlejuice, as all of the Peaches Christ stage shows are, Sheetlejuice is a truly interesting take on the Tim Burton-directed film. In the original, Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin played ghosts unable to leave their idyllic small-town home, employing the rude and crude Beetlejuice to scare off the highly obnoxious city folk who invade their turf. Sheetlejuice, on the other hand, is set inside the Castro Theatre, the new owners of which have grand plans to turn it into a classic cinema palace. But when those owners die (and are unable to leave their beloved theater) and obnoxious new ners show up looking to turn the theater into a multiplex, some haunting is clearly in order.
To scare those unbearable new owners away, the dead couple enlists a drag queen who once performed there and has since passed on — Bianca Del Rio, who goes by the name Sheetlejuice. The character is, according to Del Rio, “an obnoxious, insane ghost.”
“It’s definitely not a far-fetched performance,” she laughs.
In the show, Peaches Christ plays Lydia — daughter of the obnoxious new theater owner who befriends the dead couple. It’s a drag parody of the film role originated by current Stranger Things lead Winona Rider.
These two drag legends coming together for Sheetlejuice was itself a fairly organic thing. As Peaches Christ and Bianca Del Rio tell it, years back they were in a Provincetown dressing room with another Drag Race winner, Season 5’s Jinkx Monsoon, when the idea came up in conversation.
“A designer had made Jinkx this Lydia dress that was in the dressing room, and she had it on and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that dress looks hysterical on you!'” says Bianca Del Rio. “Jinkx goes, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be great if Peaches did Beetlejuice and had you as Beetlejuice?’ I said, ‘You know, I’m not really that familiar with it. I haven’t seen it,’ and she goes, ‘Girl, it’s you. It’s a hateful ghost that comes back to scare people.’ I said, ‘Well, it sounds fitting.'”
Sheetlejuice won’t be the first pairing of Peaches Christ and Bianca Del Rio, who back in 2015 starred alongside each other for a parody production of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, and here’s hoping it won’t be the last, either. As both queens say, they’re practically a match made in comedic drag parody heaven.
“What’s great about working with Peaches is that we feed off of each other, and everything comes from a place of respect and trust,” Del Rio tells us. “She knows what the audience wants from her perspective, and I know what I’m capable of getting away with. I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment — not yet, knock on wood — where Peaches has come back and said, ‘OK, let’s not go there.’ But, you know, I think we both come from the school of ‘We’re men in dresses, and a joke is a joke, and if it gets a laugh — at whoever’s expense — it gets a laugh.'”
Speaking of the ideal audience for the L.A. premiere of Sheetlejuice, Peaches Christ insists it’s a rather large swath of people. “I think Beetlejuice fans will find it entertaining, and Bianca Del Rio fans and drag fans will find it to be entertaining, too,” she says.
Del Rio seconds that sentiment. “Everybody’s far more over-the-top than the film would be, but also, Sheetlejuice has got that edge to it that makes it a little more appealing to anyone who knows who we are.”