Rizo's holiday extravaganza

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Thursday December 2, 2021
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The fabulous Rizo will bring her unique style of performing to a holiday themed show on the stage of the Great Star Theater in Chinatown on December 10 and 11. Rizo has been performing for more than fifteen years. Her shows have been described as "a fierce but kindhearted fusion of comedy, burlesque, performance art and rock n' roll."

When she comes to San Francisco, Rizo won't be alone. Joining her onstage will be international belly dancer Zoe Jakes, along with Fou Fou Ha, the Bay Area's very own surrealist clown troupe. The show promises to appeal not only to celebrants of Christmas, but also to those who observe Hanukah and Kwanzaa. According to Rizo, 70 percent of the show will consist of stories and song. The other 30 percent will be a surprise. Fans will have to buy a ticket if they want to see what Rizo has in store for them.

"Don't expect to hear any Frosty the Snowman or gospel songs," says Rizo. "I'm just a hippy, witchy Jew who celebrates Solstice whose need to be free translates into expression, into my art."

Rizo sometimes refers to herself as the "High Priestess of Cabaret."

"I like to mix secretly, in a surreptitious way, feelings of cultivating the church of glitter in a nightclub space," she said. "So using the nighttime performance with glamour, drag and performance and song, is a way to talk about bigger issues that we are all facing; mainly to cultivate the connection to the Feminine Divine for us all to gain a greater sense of actualization."

Rizo describes her onstage persona as "high status," not unlike some of her predecessors, such as Bette Midler.

"I appreciate that Bette Midler calls herself a diva for the people," Rizo said. "It's kind of an oxymoronic idea of this accessible star. I use luxury and high glamour to play around with the archetype of the chanteuse, the nightclub singer. I'm most interested in exposing my own flaws through that alter-ego, so it's that juxtaposition of presenting the glossy image and then peeling it away so we can all connect to the truth of that dichotomy within themself."

Showgirl tips

Rizo says that she got through the pandemic with a lot of sighs and tears. As she points out, her livelihood is built around gathering people in close quarters indoors. She has no interest in doing live-streamed shows, so she launched a Patreon account in order to connect with her audience when live performing was not an option.

She also started a podcast in which she chatted with writers, artists, performers, singers, comedians, and novelists. And to top it all off, she is working on a book, tentatively titled Showgirl Tips For Survival.

"My audience is 40 percent women and 40 percent gay men," she said. "I'm not sure if the women are gay, straight or in between. And 20 percent of my audience is other. There are some dapper hetero men in my audience. As for age, I'm really proud to say there's a very wide split. I like to think of myself as an alt-cabaret performer. I mainly thrive on intimate audiences of under 500 that are lubricated—people who are drinking, or they've smoked a joint outside."

Gay men, she feels, understand the power of worshipping and acknowledging the feminine divine.

"Because they've experienced homophobia, and at the root of homophobia is misogyny," Rizo explains. "So they are more able to champion that kind of feminine power themselves. And as an external projection of that they see me stepping into the light of this diva. I mean I come from a long lineage of like Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Edith Piaf, Nina Simone; powerful women who are performers who have always had a deep connection with homosexual men. And my closest circles are homosexual men, I'm a radical fairy. I love drag in the woods. It's who I feel most comfortable around."

The holiday season, according to Rizo, is a time of light. Holidays like Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa all come at a time when the days are short, when there's a lot of darkness, and so people celebrate these holidays in part by lighting candles or a Yule log.

"We're acknowledging the great powerful sun as it fades," she said. "It's a time of introspection and can be dark for people. Especially if you don't have a super solid relationship with your nuclear family. It's a time to gather with those who are the chosen family. And so I want to hold space for that, and I'm welcoming my chosen family, as in these other performers (appearing in the show with her) but also the audience; people that connect to the same values as I do, the values surrounding joy, and choosing joy in a time that's tough."

Rizo refers to herself as a chanteuse, a storyteller and a comedian. She modestly claims that she looks fabulous and boasts of holding her audience in her gloved hand. She is in fact a Grammy-winning singer, featured on Yo-Yo Ma's 2008 Christmas album Songs of Joy and Peace, which took home the award for Best Classical Crossover Album. She has released two albums of her own, Violet (2013) and Indigo (2017).

Audiences coming to see her at the Great Star can expect some Christmas songs and things with a "soul undertone." She'll also be lighting Hanukah candles to Shirley Bassey's arrangement of "Light My Fire."

When asked what she would say to anyone on the fence about attending her show, she answered without hesitation.

"That nobody's ever regretted it," she said. "You're gonna walk out feeling really good, feeling celebratory, feeling more prepared for the onslaught of all the jingle bells. And it's going to be a feast for the eyes. The dancing of the Fou Fou Ha clowns, the belly dancing that Zoe is internationally recognized for, and the pure power of all the costume changes I'll do. And I'll be wearing an incredible headpiece by Darrell Thorne!"


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