by Steve Desroches
Meghan Murphy may be on the “rainbow tour,” but she’s seeing red. The Chicago-based actor and singer has long been a beloved staple of the stages, both large and small, in the Windy City. From big splashy musicals to razzle dazzle cabaret shows, Murphy has done it all. And one thing has always been consistent, really since she was a young girl. She’s always been surrounded by gay people. Her LGBTQ fan base has provided support since she was a student at the Boston Conservatory, where gay friends and drag queens helped her develop her va-va-voom personal style. Brassy and bold Murphy, who has long had the nickname Big Red, is now hitting the road to satiate a performance wanderlust, and of course that journey began with the LGBTQ community.
After landing a residency at the Palm Cabaret in the gay hot spot of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Murphy’s voicemail and email inboxes were full of offers to perform elsewhere, leading Big Red to hit the Lavender Circuit of LGBTQ resort towns, including Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Saugatuck, Michigan, and here in Provincetown where she’ll make her performance debut this week at the Post Office Cabaret.
“I grew up around LGBTQ folks and it’s been that way ever since,” says Murphy from a steamy hot Chicago. “Getting a residency in P.V. was a dream come true, just like all the opportunities that came from it, including the call to come to Provincetown. Who would I be if I didn’t show up for my people?” Describing herself as a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Bette Midler, Murphy is bringing The Big Red Show to town, a rollicking cabaret featuring everything from “Broadway to Beyoncé,” full of hilarious stories all dressed up in the glamour of Old Hollywood. Since her childhood in the San Francisco Bay area Murphy has always collected inspiration from a variety of sources to inform her own vision and voice. She credits her high school drama teacher for completely changing her life—not just for helping her develop her craft as a singer and actor, but for taking the time to individually encourage her by letting her know that indeed yes, she could be the performer she dreamed of being, inspired by the Motown music her parents played, and artists like Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and Patti LaBelle. So she packed up and moved east to study in Boston, and then she briefly landed in New York City before heading to Chicago, where almost immediately she found work in big musical productions, including The Drowsy Chaperone, City of Angels, and later Mamma Mia! But she is perhaps best known for her splashy cabaret shows, mixing soul, pop, show tunes, and more into a decidedly gay affair. Embracing the term “broad” as empowering, Murphy revels in that big mama energy of Midler and in turn Sophie Tucker and Mae West, and the glitz of Rita Hayworth with sizzling sexuality and unapologetic bawdiness. Her audiences are continually comprised of her usual large gay following, continuing the legacy of Bette at the Continental Baths. And Murphy wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Well, first of all, it’s just more fun,” says Murphy. “What I always hope is that my show encourages people to be their authentic selves. The LGBTQ community has had to fight hard to be able to do that, and continues to fight. When you have an audience that feels taken care of and included, that they can celebrate who they are and be celebrated in return, it makes the room feel alive.”
Having long dabbled in the fabulous arts, this may be Murphy’s Provincetown performance debut, but she is no stranger to the town at the tip. She’s been coming to Provincetown for years. And with her recent run in Puerto Vallarta she has a long list of drag friends waiting for her arrival to get the party started, like Miss Conception, Paige Turner, and Edie. She’s also excited to be making her debut at the Post Office Cabaret, which has a long history of hosting drag performance over its nearly 50-year history, but as of the past couple of years has also begun presenting an impressive roster of diverse musical acts, including Debby Holiday, Seth Sikes, Mary Callanan, Michael Ryan, Marieann Meringolo, Mike Flanagan, and Sheree Marcelle. There’s also the natural beauty of Provincetown and her beloved lobster rolls, a must whenever she hits New England. But she’s an experienced Provincetown visitor and so she knows what, above all else, makes the town so special.
“I love the community,” says Murphy. “It’s a lot of things but most of all a town. And the community makes Provincetown all that it is. I love the community most of all.”
Meghan Murphy presents The Big Red Show, Tuesday, August 2 and Wednesday, August 3, 8:30 p.m. and Thursday, August 4, 10 p.m. at the Post Office Cabaret, 303 Commercial St. Tickets ($35) are available at the box office and online at postofficecabaret.net. For more information call 508.487.0087.