“It’s been 20 months since I last performed here,” comedian Ike Avelli tells a packed house at New York City’s Triad Theater the Saturday before last. It’s an oblique reference to the forced hiatus from live performances the pandemic brought, but also a statement of overcoming, as Ike’s 50 Shades Of Gay variety show celebrates its sixth anniversary. Fresh off their road trip to the Fringe Festival in Providence, RI, Ike and film star, vocalist and actor Tym Moss were joined by fabulous drag diva and athlete Jackie Dupree on the Upper West Side, for a show that was filled with uproarious new material, audience participation, and campy video shorts from The Tym and Ike Show. Some costumes, like Ike’s Pool Noodle headpiece and his bubble wrap suit, were created by Suze GX Designs, much to the amusement of the audience.
Sponsored by Uberlube and the law firm of E. Martin Davidoff, the Triad show was a long-awaited reprise of a long-running favorite in the LGBTQ community. Since 2015, 50 Shades Of Gay has played to audiences from coast to coast, winning critical acclaim and poking irreverent, hilarious fun at everything from gay life to iconic figures like Barbra Streisand. This year’s edition of 50 Shades did not disappoint. Ike started off with Wedding Day Blues, followed by his opening monologue, as the audience waved the show’s signature glow sticks enthusiastically. Among the attendees were notables like model and filmmaker Wendy Stuart Kaplan, drag queen Zola Powell, and legendary gay nightclub baron Nick Lion, who was celebrating his birthday.
Punctuating the lineup were short video skits featuring Tym and Ike, who variously portrayed monks having a bake sale, and beachgoers looking for love in the sand, and audience participation, a 50 Shades hallmark. Ike brought up Nancy Kucharski and her daughter Hannah, who journeyed to the city from Indiana to see the show, as well as local photographer Joe Aiello. It was delightful to see ordinary theatergoers lip-syncing alongside Ike, and participants received Uberlube prizes for their bravery.
It is said that in comedy there is often truth, and this performance was no exception. Amid the mirth, Ike made some pointed observations about being gay while growing older, and Tym embraced his maturity, exhorting the crowd, “this is what sixty looks like,” as he belted out songs both poignant and classic, including New York, New York, complete with an impromptu audience-and-cast kick line. Jackie Dupree was also dazzling in her sparkling regalia, and she graced the stage to perfection.
As summer winds down, Ike and Tym, along with actress Fran Sisco, are now on their way to The Abbey in Orlando, Florida on August 28, where they’ll be joined by local drag sensation Eleanora Diamond. You can get tickets for this show here. As with all of Ike’s performances, bring your brightest smile, because you’re gonna need it!