If it’s queer and if it’s theatrical, chances are The Neon Coven is into it. The collective is known for immersive presentations that are spectacular, heartfelt, and packed with all sorts of pop culture references.
Next up, the group partners with Playbill and Cadillac for the Pride celebration Glimmer of Light at Radial Park in Halletts Point, Queens. Named after a song from the Coven’s OSCAR at The Crown, the June 17 event will feature original music and choreography by Andrew Barret Cox; Shira Milikowsky directs. The lineup favorites from Broadway, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and beyond. A newly announced Real Housewives segment will include Candiace Dillard Bassett, Dorinda Medley, Dr. Tiffany Moon, Gina Kirschenheiter, Jackie Goldschneider, Margaret Josephs, Tamra Judge and Wendy Osefo. Proceeds from the event will go to the Born This Way Foundation.
Ahead of Glimmer of Light, get to know members of The Neon Coven through something we can all bond over: theatre obsessions. Read on (and travel down the YouTube spiral) as the artists share what performances, money notes, random news show segments, and more live rent free in their heads.
Donna Murphy’s rendition of “Could I Leave You” at Sondheim’s 80th birthday. First of all, none of the legends sitting behind her (namely, Patti) are able to look away, let alone visually react with wonderment to Donna. She is so clearly in total control of herself, the song, and the audience. She acts it flawlessly from start to finish; it’s a masterclass in “acting through song” in less than five minutes. Her passion and power and specificity make it so emotionally relatable and heartbreaking, yet also so touching and hilarious. I’ve never not audibly laughed and cried watching this performance. It makes me so proud to be a musical theatre actress.
Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour is the greatest work of musical theatre I have ever seen. It will forever be my artistic North Star as a creator, a performer, and an audience member. The Monster Ball has everything: a staircase made out of syringes, an angler fish we can kill with our iPhones, jokes about the F train... I saw the show in the front row of the pit when I was 18 years old. I was afraid of who I was and terrified that my fantasies would never even come close to becoming realities. (I was also standing immediately next to Andrew Barret Cox years before we would ever meet.) But when Stefani said "All you've gotta do is follow...", I screamed "THE GLITTER WAY!" until I hemorrhaged, and I've never looked back.
Honorable Mention: This CBS News Chicago clip of Stephanie J. Block explaining how "Defying Gravity" works, specifically the line "I won't defy gravity. I won't go up." And the little jingle she sings at 0:43, which is literally my text tone.
My second theatre experience (my first was, unfortunately, Cats) was Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida on Broadway. Watching Heather Headley sing “Easy As Life” was the moment I knew I wanted to be a performer. It was the first time I saw myself in this industry, and that was an unreal and incredibly validating feeling and experience. It was also the moment I knew I wanted to BELT FOR THA GAWDS! Her opt up on "It's eee-EENOUGH" is everything, and that moment alone lives rent free in my head.
Fergie’s performance of “Barracuda,” live on The Today Show, circa 2008. She growls up to Es while doing one-handed cartwheels. I think about this moment once a week. I think it’s so special because no matter what, we as a society are never ready for what Fergie will do next.
“Seasons of Love,” [as performed by] the Canadian original cast of Rent on some morning interview show. At 1:19, [the soloist] takes an opt up on "measure your life in love" and pops up the octave from the already beautiful high C into whistle tone. It lives rent free (pun intended!) in my head, and is special to me because it just exhibits the pure creativity and artistry that any individual singer or artist can bring to a performance.
Cats was the first musical I ever did when I was eight years old at a musical theatre summer camp. I watched the [1998 London] VHS as research because I was Mungojerrie in the production, and I became obsessed. I watched the VHS every day until I literally broke the tape. It introduced me to theatre and made me fall in love with it, and that show is still very special to me to this day. I literally saw the revival four times and cried every time because not only is it an amazing show, but it makes me feel like I’m eight again watching live(ish) theatre for the first time and having no idea that I would still love it so much as an adult—and that I would be working in the industry professionally.
Ryan Gregory Thurman
When Lin-Manuel Miranda did the opening number to Hamilton at the White House in ‘09. I had just started acting and singing, and in that moment realized how different, powerful, and cool it was that theatre could reach people of different cultures through music. That—and the fact that there was a Latino artist, rapping on stage… for a Black President and First Lady. Yeah. Dope.
The first time I saw Frozen on stage at the Hyperion Theatre [at Disneyland’s California Adventure]. It hadn't come to Broadway yet, and this was the first anyone was seeing of it live. There is a moment when Elsa walks up a staircase to belt “Let It Go,” and all of a sudden, the ice staircase moves from the stage to hang over the top of the audience. I remember thinking it was the most magical thing I have ever seen. Just when you think set design couldn't get any better, Disney just blew us all away. The Broadway version never did that, so I fondly remember it as something special that Disneyland offered.
I mean, Patti [LuPone]’s “Rose’s Turn”…Is there any other answer? Equal parts chaotic and precise, entirely ruthless—it’s the true definition of leaving it all on the stage. The first time I watched it was the first time I’d felt myself holistically mesmerized by a performance, and that happens every time I watch it—which may or may not be weekly at the least (oops!).
Watching Billy Porter in Kinky Boots. All of it. Beginning to end. Period. I remember sitting dead center in the orchestra by myself and sobbing (a couple times) and celebrating with the stranger sitting next to me. The layers of communion in theatre, between the artists and audience, is my favorite part of the experience.
Giving Something Rotten!’s “A Musical” a standing ovation as I sat front row center with five close friends at the first preview. We all paid $20, and it completely snatched our lives!
One of the founding pillars of The Neon Coven is screaming. Usually, the context implies a Chipmunks-esque, high belty kind-of way, but I've always taken it a little more literally. The screaming theatre moment that lives rent-free in my head is Jane Horrocks' interpretation of the last chorus of the title song "Cabaret" in the 1993 Donmar Warehouse production. Horrocks is an incredible vocalist, but made a choice here to lean into the narrative that Sally is a sub-par talent on the brink of collapse, sacrificing any ego for vocal aesthetics to the vulnerability and truth of the story. I strive to always be this unapologetically raw in my choices on stage, and feel empowered by the Coven to do so, whether I'm whacking or singing for queer liberation in "Glimmer of Light".
Additional sponsors for Glimmer of Light include GSI Studios, HeadCount, Icelandic Water, Kevin Duda Productions, Moritz Theatricals, NYC Test and Trace Corps, Open Jar Studios, The Playbill Store, Popcornopolis, Radial Park, Thrill Communications, Unruly Hearts Initiative, and VSCO.