Baltimore actress Mink Stole, or Nancy Stoll, is one of the Dreamlanders, a regular cast member in the films of John Waters and something of a cult film icon. She’s appeared in most of his movies to date, including Hairspray and Pink Flamingoes. She was chums with Divine and other high-camp stars and because of her name and the company she keeps she says people often assume she’s a drag queen. She’s not though, and her Christmas cabaret is more like sitting down with your favorite, slightly naughty aunt to dish the dirt on the rest of the family.
Accompanied by her “Wonderful Band” – the barefoot Glenn Workman on piano, Skizz Cyzyk on drums and Dylan Kaminkow on bass – Mink performs a medley of Christmas songs and some less familiar numbers interspersed with funny reminiscences and observations about the season. On a recent evening it was clear that many in the audience knew Mink personally or were at least very familiar with her films. But even if you know nothing about her past career, she has presence enough to win over an audience.
Dressed in a sparkly silver sequin jacket that she explained she found hidden at the back of a consignment store in her native Baltimore, she cut an elegant figure on the tiny stage. Throughout the show she chats away and sips from a hot toddy complete with cinnamon stick. So far, so cozy. And then Mink drops a bombshell about her own childhood memories of Christmas. Without revealing too much, Christmas in Mink’s house was not something to look forward to. What’s more, she recalls finding Santa a scary figure as a child. These experiences, followed by many years living in sunny California meant that she only recently acquired a Christmas tree – a present from her sister. The gift inspired a droll re-writing of “Oh Christmas Tree” which was one of the high-points of the set.
Mink’s voice, on the whole, dwells in the softer ranges, but in some songs her true range and vocal power shine through particularly during her rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” in French. The show concludes with a grand sing-along version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. The whole room belted out the words with the unabashed relish of having nothing to hide. And that’s how Mink Stole’s shows make you feel; there’s this sense that she is happy to tell you anything you want to know about her and that, should you respond in kind, she would probably be an excellent listener too.