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A Head Above the Rest

August 16, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 11
Photo: Claude Raschella

Photo: Claude Raschella

by Steve Desroches

It’s been the summer of Salome. The scandalous Oscar Wilde play opened at the Provincetown Theater for a spring run, but the response to this decadent tale of seduction and murder was so incredible that it returned in July and continues to sizzle through the dog days of August. Perhaps the most scintillating moment of the production is when Kim David Smith performs the dance of the seven veils as the gamine Salome who wants nothing else but the severed head of John the Baptist in return.  And he gets it.

Night after night Smith gives a remarkable performance, the kind that Provincetown audiences relish it not just for its artistic achievement and inarguable sensuality, but also because of the thrill of seeing someone who might just be the next big thing. The Australian beauty landed in Provincetown just last year as part of the Afterglow Festival, the annual September theatrical event that brings the best of downtown New York performance to the Cape tip. Smith had just finished starring as the Emcee in Cabaret at the famed Cape Playhouse in Dennis, which is where Provincetown Theater’s artistic director Tristan DiVincenzo and board members first saw him and knew he’d be perfect for Salome. With his slinky stage demeanor, smooth vocal stylings, glam rock sensibility, and Weimar Republic aura, Smith is a superstar of alt-cabaret, at home in Australia, in New York, and now here in Provincetown where he’ll present his one-man-show Morphium Kabarett at the Crown and Anchor for two nights only this Carnival Week.

“Morphium Kabarett is pretty much my favorite thing to do as a show,” says Smith, perched on a stool in front of Spindler’s sipping on a coffee. “It’s everything I look for in a man. It’s sexy and goofy, romantic and weird.”

Born and raised in Traralgon, Victoria, Australia, about two hours from Melbourne, from the earliest he can remember “unique” women like Eartha Kitt always intrigued Smith, and he was obsessed with watching the 1972 Bob Fosse film adaptation of Cabaret, identifying with the lead character Sally Bowles.  Lucky to have open-minded and accepting parents, Smith’s father gave him a biography of Marlene Dietrich when he was 15 to support his artistic interests, and both parents were accepting of his sexuality and that of his two sisters, who are both lesbians. This was invaluable family support growing up in a small town in the Australian countryside.

Despite the enormity of the Australian landmass Smith outgrew the continent with its small population of only 25 million people. If you want to take it to the next level one needs to come to the United States, says Smith. After a brief stint in Japan, Smith moved to New York, where he’s lived for over 10 years, becoming a sensation performing at venues like Joe’s Pub and the Neue Galerie, home to the Gustav Klimt painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, more popularly known as The Lady in Gold. He loves to interpret the melancholy and decay of the Weimar era ensconced in the sunny disposition of his Australian home, and its premier gay icon, Kylie Minogue, providing a striking and charming juxtaposition.

Photo: David Wagner

Photo: David Wagner

“As an Australian she’s like gay Jesus,” says Smith. “I was six years old when I got my first Kylie record, on vinyl. There’s a natural inclination to be the Madonna in any given situation when we should really be the Kylie. She’s the sun and the light. Not at all as unpleasant as Madonna can be.”

At 34, he’s not only the toast of downtown New York, but after this summer he is eager to throw down summer roots in Provincetown as he looks to the future since the town is so open to the fringe of entertainment and art.  He was smitten upon his first visit last September, but come this August it’s a full on love affair. Having lived in the middle of town, on Standish Street near Mooncusser Tattoo Studio, he’s reveled in the crowds and chaos of a summer in Provincetown, and still gets a laugh as he hears passersby ponder out loud whether they should get inked or not on their vacation. He’s felt the magic of Provincetown as he’s conjured up heaps of his own on stage each night. And Morphius Kabarett is a sterling example of the distinctive Provincetown performance scene and how season after season the town presents a theatrical tradition like no other giving artists of all stripes a springboard to stardom.

“I’ve branded it the summer of Salome, of course,” says Smith. “But it really is the summer of the stars aligning from the fruits of some hard labor, and my lips are stained from them. I’m learning how to grab the stars and move them myself.”

Kim David Smith presents Morphium Kabarett at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Wednesday, August 16 and Thursday, August 17 at 10 p.m. Tickets ($30) are available at the box office and online at onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430. The final two performances of Salome are at the Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St., on Friday, August 18 and Saturday, August 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($38.50/$27.50 seniors and students) are available at the box office and online at provincetowntheater.org. For more information call 508.487.7487.