Fans of local theater and the fabulous, nostalgic, psychedelic-influenced performance art of The Cockettes will be thrilled to hear that another of the long-defunct group's seminal works is getting a revival this spring. Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, the rag-tag revue which the group was performing just as their national fame was at its zenith in 1971 — and which they took on tour for an infamously disastrous New York run in November of that year — is opening April 4 at the Hypnodrome in SoMa, via the Thrillpeddlers.

The new production comes with musical direction from one of the original Cockettes and a writer of the original show, Scrumbly Koldewyn, and it will feature original members of the group "Sweet Pam” and Rumi Missabu as well. It's directed by Russell Blackwood, and it follows on recent revivals of Hot Greeks and Pearls Over Shanghai, which were also part of the Cockettes original repertoire.

Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, like the other recent revivals, uses the basic script from the original and its four original songs, but Koldewyn has written fourteen new songs to flesh the show out further — as you might imagine, the LSD-fueled original productions were pretty light on plot, and everything else, and were mostly just about given the troupe of bearded hippie drag performers the opportunity to prance around in fanciful costumes.

Rex Reed was in attendance for one of their performances of Tinsel Tarts at The Palace in North Beach in 1971, and he wrote the following, just to give you an idea:

Two bottles of cold wine were passed through our row and everybody drank openly, fearless of hepatitis. An enormous blonde in tomato-red satin hot pants with biceps and a hairy chest where his cleavage should have been, held hands with an Indian Maharishi carrying a Sun-Ra poster. "This is the only true theater," observed [Truman] Capote [who was also in attendance], "Where there is total participation from an audience that is part of the show itself." Three flappers with Band-Aids on chins cut while shaving applauded with glee.

The show began amidst a colossal stampede of applause, screams and foot-stomping. Onto the stage trooped the Cockettes—a spangled chaos of flesh, a seething mass of lurching bodies in lavish hock-shop costumes, doing their thing for freedom. The spectacle devised for this particular evening was called "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" and it began with a gigantic transvestite who looked like Birgit Nilsson, playing the Statue of Liberty holding a Halloween sparkler against a cardboard Manhattan skyline.
This was followed by an elaborate Busby Berkeley number called "Depression," in which 14 Floradora girls and a naked man with a tiny photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt covering his genitals sang a song about the stock market. Mrs. Johnny Carson turned white. Vedda Viper, a syndicated gossip columnist who looked like Linda Darnell, delivered campy patter about the stars while doing a reverse strip, naked from the waist down, squeezing hairy legs into a floor-length formal. The crowd went berserk.

Sounds amazing, right? They're promising a limited engagement of just 30 performances over two months, marking the 42nd anniversary of the original. Tickets are $30 to $35 and can be purchased here.

Below, a trailer for the excellent 2002 documentary, The Cockettes. Find it on Netflix.