PAINT IT BLACK: Jason Reid meets beguiling cabaret star, Joe Black

Photo by Anthony Lycett

By Jason Reid

He’s spooky and he’s kooky, he’s all together ooky… he’s musical comedy misfit and gin addled cabaret star JOE BLACK!

Yes, we know it doesn’t scan but anything goes in drag, right? Unless you’re female or trans or… well anything but male and want to compete on Drag Race.

ANYWAY, this week Joe told Jason Reid all about the new show, A Celebration of Villainy in Song, plus they nattered about touring the country, hamming it up and fave baddies…


Hi Joe! The new show is all about musical villains. Where on earth did that idea come from?

It’s been something I’ve wanted to do forever! As a child I would rewind the video tapes to hear the villain songs again and again. I’d re-enact the scenes in my bedroom with toys, which I’m sure is fairly telling of how I turned out. Other kids were distraught over the death of Musafa, whereas I was pretending to be Scar.

To get an idea of what to expect, can you give some examples that people will be familiar with?

The show includes the most famous ones in cinema history, so it’s not really much of a spoiler to say that ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ from The Little Mermaid makes an appearance; ‘Be Prepared’ from The Lion King, ‘In The Dark of the Night’ from Anastasia, and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast are all in the show. It wouldn’t really be a celebration of villainy without those included. My utterly charming and demented pianist Friedrich Hollandaise is really quite the excellent musical arranger and has also managed to squeeze 15 villainous songs into a four minute medley, so that we can at least give a little nod to some unexpected pieces.

Do you instinctively prefer to ham it up than play it straight, so to speak? Why is that?

HAM! I can say that with utmost confidence, despite having not eaten meat in longer than I can remember. Since going in to the rehearsals of this show I can assure you there’s nothing quite as emotionally fulfilling as ending a song with the loudest and most maniacal laugh your voice can handle.

You’re going to be taking this show on the road. How has the prep for that been going and do you enjoy playing different cities and theatres?

This has certainly been the most work I’ve ever put into a show. It has a small set and it is vocally really demanding. Which is totally new for me. I’ve always depended on a ‘character voice’ for a lot of what I do. Though this show has a lot of character voice, it also has some BIG numbers. So that is both exciting, daunting…and tiring. We’ll be doing it up until the end of May. Though i’m getting enquiries about further ahead, so it may be extending throughout the year.

The London leg of the tour is at the RVT. Why did you choose that venue?

It has the perfect vibe for it. I also wanted to do as many LGBTQ+ venues for this tour that i could. It’s a huge subject to delve into (I’ll go into it at the show), but the villains are typically packed full of queer coding. As a kid I didn’t relate to the princes or princesses, I saw myself as the effeminate outsider, and typically, the effeminate outsider is generally the villain. Also I just generally love the RVT. I love the shape of the room, and I love how you look out onto the crowd. You really feel like you’re in the thick of it with everybody.

When an audience leaves your show, what do you want them to feel?

I want audiences to leave happy. For me cabaret and these kind of shows are about escapism. So if an audience can lose themselves in an evening of ridiculous entertainment and leave with a smile on their face, I know I have done my job properly.

What’s the baddest thing Joe Black has ever done?

Run through a field of wheat.

Joe’s Fave Kitsch Baddies 

Oogie Boogie – The Nightmare Before Christmas

My favourite baddie of all time. He’s the literal boogie man. He was also based on Cab Calloway, which certainly speaks to my musical interests

Ursula – The Little Mermaid

I love her so much that the entire top of my left arm is a huge tattoo of her looking demonically sassy. She’s based on legendary drag queen Divine, so, I couldn’t not say her could I?!

Mysterio – Spiderman

He’s a villainous magician with a fish bowl on his head, that ultimately turns out to be quite useless in the grand scheme of things. Though he is proper camp!

Joe Black’s Touch of Evil: A Celebration of Villainy in Song plays at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Wednesday, 14th March.