Director and writer Amanda Kramer (Ladyworld, Please Baby Please) has created this exploration of the first ever television special for Sissy St. Claire (Sophie von Haselberg. It’s an evening full of music and laughter, glamour and entertainment, as the ad copy goes, but Sissy’s live event quickly begins to become a nightmare thanks to a mysterious masked man.
Sissy is determined to make it no matter the cost and in the past world of entertainment, let’s say late 70s to mid 80s, that meant getting your own variety special on TV. Well, she sure does, but as each song plays, the lighting gets stranger, the mood gets more ominous, the hair gets just a bit more out of control.
This was the world where performers could compare themselves to God’s favorite Son — where’s Bobby Bittman, Sammy Maudlin and William B. Williams to hype her show? — and say things like, “I’m just dying to be known.” Her psychic guest refuses to even make physical contact with her, claiming that she’s demonic. Yet through it all, the video effects distorting the screen, the masked man silently judging and just Sissy all alone on stage, even doing a two-woman sketch all by herself, she remains what they call a trooper.
The only downside I can say of this is that I wished it stuck to the format of TV shows and was under an hour — with commercials trimmed — and not as long as it is. The idea comes through early, the rest feels like endless riffing on the same notes. But what it does play is strange and wonderful enough to keep you watching.