Bonni Suval: goth chanteuse to play Martuni's with original Cockette Scrumbly Koldewyn

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Friday January 19, 2024
Share this Post:
Scrumbly Koldewyn and Bonni Suval
Scrumbly Koldewyn and Bonni Suval

On January 27 and 28, goth chanteuse Bonni Suval, who's been seen with the Thrillpeddlers and The Cockettes revival shows, will take to the stage of Martuni's for a night of song. Suval, known as a belter, will offer vintage standards such as "I'd Rather Be Blue," along with more contemporary fare like "That Wasn't Me" and "Cripple and the Starfish." Joining Suval at the piano will be none other than original Cockette Scrumbly Koldewyn.

Since The Cockettes disbanded in the early 1970s, Koldewyn has kept busy composing, performing and teaching. Like Suval, he was involved with The Thrillpeddlers and has performed in the recent Cockette revivals.

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Suval said that they were delighted to be reunited with their old friend Koldewyn.

Bonni Suval (photo: Gooch)  

"We have worked together off and on for fourteen years now so he knows my style and aesthetic and has suggested some great music for us to play together," Suval said. "Plus, he lives a few blocks away from me, so I can walk my little dog over to rehearse at his house. It's been so fun to show each other music that is new to each of us."

The pair performed their first cabaret together at The Golden Bull nightclub in Oakland in 2022. They had so much fun, they decided to do it again. Suval said that they won't be the only one showing off their pipes at Martuni's. Koldewyn will be singing a solo number in the show and will be joining Suval on some harmonies.

Suval began performing when they were very young. They studied ballet at the tender age of four and soon began studying tap. Their teacher saw their passion and they won "most improved" at their first tap performance.

"I spent much of my early years performing tap numbers at fairs and malls," they said. "Remember Tiffany doing mall tours? My inspiration to perform has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I came out of my mother jazz hands ablazing."

It all paid off, as Suval is now an award-winning performer. They won a BATCC Award for playing Gina in Thrillpeddlers' revival of The Cockettes' musical "Vice Palace."

"I was so shocked to be nominated," they recalled. "I remember accepting the award onstage at the Palace of Fine Arts. It was so surreal being on that stage at that beautiful theater with my co-stars. It felt pretty cool to be seen in that way. I had stopped performing for a few years before 2010 and this made me feel like I was back where I belonged."

Suval loves being a part of The Cockettes revivals and has performed in six full runs of Cockettes shows. They've been seen in "Pearls Over Shanghai," and "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" in addition to the more recent Cockettes revues.

"I truly adore Scrumbly and his work," they said. "It makes me so damn happy to be able to help to continue his legacy as a brilliant performer, darling deviant, and scintillating songwriter. The Cockettes show us that love, music, and a ton of glitter can bring the magical weirdos together to create something truly alive. Dirt! Sex! Passion!"

When they take to the stage of Martuni's, Suval will be singing a selection of songs that are meaningful to them. There's at least one costume change planned, and the songs will represent a wide variety of genres. There will be a tune from "Funny Girl," a Jon Brion song, a song in tribute to Sinead O'Connor, a comedic interlude of "Otto Titsling," and even a little Diamanda Galas.

"The theme seems to be love, insanity, grief, and supportive garments," Suval said. "You may laugh, you may cry, you will definitely learn about French patent thieves."

And since Martuni's is a queer venue, just how queer will the show be?

"Well, I'm queer and Scrumbly's queer, so it's a queer show, but I wouldn't say that's the theme," said Suval. "Is that a theme? I'll leave that to the audience to decide."

Bonni Suval & Scrumbly Koldewyn: A Cabaret, January 27 and 28, 7pm, Martuni's, 4 Valencia St. $40. Tickets at Jan. 27 and Jan. 28

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!