The singing duo takes on the classics of Stevie Nicks
It’s eight o’clock on a Friday night and the HoHos are packing their tambourines. Surrounded by Stevie Nicks posters and countless racks of bedazzled costumes, Jill Pangallo and Cathy Cervenka (“Jill Ho” and “Cathy Ho” when in character) are primping for their fourteenth appearance at the infamous downtown extravaganza called Night of a Thousand Stevies (NOTS). They won’t hit the stage until well after midnight, but they’ve much to do before wowing a standing room only crowd at the Highline Ballroom in Chelsea.
If you have yet to discover Night of a Thousand Stevies, you need to save space on your calendar for next year’s event. Usually held in early May, this annual celebration of the music, the styles, and the aura of Ms. Nicks is New York at its unbridled best. I went as a special guest of the HoHos earlier this month, and let me tell you, NOTS is an evening not to missed. With everything from Stevie impersonators and glimmering drag queens to earnest folk singers and modern dancers, the show revels in every aspect of the legendary lady’s long list of hits.
Jill and Cathy were singing and hamming for audiences at the local variety show “Losers Lounge” when their 1998 rendition of “White Wing Dove” caught the eye of Tony award winning and lauded avant-garde performer, Justin Vivian Bond who recruited them for Night of a Thousand Stevies. The very next year marked the beginning of what is now a headline act.
“Jill and I are a great combo because we have compatible, yet completely different talents and approaches to what we do,” says Cervenka. She likens their physical comedy to Sonny and Cher as that duo “parallels us with the loving jabs and the height difference mostly.” With Cervenka’s impressive voice and Pangallo’s hilarious poses, the two do seem like a modern twist on that retro combination of kitsch and cute. They regularly appear draped in sequins, capes, and feathers and their act allows the diminutive Cathy to stand center-stage and sing while Jill looms above her and sings off-key.
Pangallo, who morphs her classical features from act to act can look like Dita Von Teese at one moment and a demented witch the next. “Different shows have informed my various collaborations,” says Pangallo. “But I would say seeing and becoming obsessed with the show Legends (starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin as feuding screen legends trying to share a stage) as a young teen wholly informed the high camp, female comedy duo aspect of the HoHos.”
Jill and Cathy frequently collaborate with local performers and their reach goes well beyond the realm of their two-person performances. “I love variety shows because you get to mix music and comedy, you perform yourself and you are center stage while also presenting amazingly talented friends and strangers to your audience…..that’s what I’m all about,” says Cervenka who regularly produces events through her company called “Cathyland Productions.”
This year the HoHos Night of a Thousand Stevies show included no fewer than nine singers and dancers who helped the duo realize their unique interpretation of Stevie’s song “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?” While the lyrics are a bit bleak, the HoHos chose to reinterpret it as a “Wizard of Oz” dreamscape. Their wild performance included two flying monkeys wearing fringed half-shirts, a giant Scarecrow, and a pregnant Munchkin. Jill and Cathy embodied Dorothy and the Good Witch, while additional participants were recruited from lists of eager players who were more than happy to be a part of the fun.
Lest you think you missed all the action, never fear, for the HoHos never rest. Their next flamboyant act will have them draped in capes as they sing Abba’s “When I Kissed the Teacher” at Joe’s Pub on June 21st. This will be yet another HoHos appearance with the “Loser’s Lounge” and one more opportunity for you to enjoy the talented mayhem created by this duo of white winged doves.
If you can’t see them live, here’s where you can get a glance at them online:
And for updates on more of Jill and Cathy’s work, check out:
Follow Kiara Downey on Twitter: @monocular1
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