Ryan English talks to Christopher Peterson about his triumphant return to Toronto
It’s a revue of some of the most famous women in show business brought to you by a man,” dishes international diva Christopher Peterson. “It’s everyone from Joan Rivers to Joan Crawford to Barbra Streisand, Liza — and all live, the whole gang.”
Peterson makes his triumphant return to Toronto to close out We’re Funny That Way, the 15th and final gay and lesbian comedy festival. The outrageous performance artist will revive his show Eyecons after blowing the socks, and wigs, off Las Vegas audiences.
The show is a smorgasbord of the biggest prima donnas of stage and screen. For years, Peterson has been dragging the most legendary bitches out of hell and channelling them into his performances. All costume changes are done live on stage from his mobile closet of queeny glory.
He admits it’s a challenge to play favourites with the long line of icons he portrays. “Each one is like a child. They allow me to be and do something different on stage as a performer,” he says. “Certainly, the audience have their favourites. Some people say it’s like Judy Garland is alive right there on the stage. I love doing Julie Andrews, but then I love doing Marilyn because I love that dress. I mean, who doesn’t?”
The triple threat has been performing for decades after getting his start in Halifax. What differentiates Peterson from other performance artists are his velvety cabaret-style vocals, comedic timing and outlandish costumes, which he has been designing since the beginning.
“Believe it or not, in Grade 10 I signed up for home economics. I was the one male out of 1,800 kids in my high school to take home ec for three years, and I learned how to sew,” he says. “I got my start when I was 18, which was 32 years ago. Unless you’re on Facebook, then it was 23 years ago.”
The invitation to perform the finale at We’re Funny That Way came as a surprise to Peterson, who has been out of the city for 15 years.
“The reason I’m coming back to Toronto is because they asked me,” he says. “I thought, My God, I must have done something really bad if they’re inviting me back after all this time.”
After three decades of tantalizing and seducing audiences, Peterson’s advice to up-and-coming showgirls is simple: ‘‘Keep your day job and just have fun. If you’re having fun, so is the audience. No matter how glamorous you think you are, you’re just a clown. When I grew up you were either a drag queen or a female impersonator. A drag queen wore three blue wigs on her head. A female impersonator was someone who walked out on stage and happened to look like who they were imitating. I just happened to sound like them, as well. I’ve been labelled a female impersonator, which is fine. It’s all just splitting hairs, anyway. Whatever you want to call yourself, honey, that’s fine with me. Just buy yourself a ticket and I’ll be happy.”
We’re Funny That Way
Thurs, May 10–Sat, May 12
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
12 Alexander St
Christopher Peterson’s Eyecons
Sat, May 12, 9:30pm