ASR Theater ~~ “Red Shades” A Rockin’ World Premier

By George Maguire


It takes years to get a new musical up and ready to be seen.

The rockabilly sound-and-light fest Red Shades is no exception. A cast of mostly trans, binary, and renowned queer artists of the Bay Area take us on a phantasmagorical journey in wild comic book style with a heart as big as Golden Gate Park. Started at the El Rio with follow-up work at PianoFight, Starlight and other workshop homes, Red Shades finally opened as a completed musical at the Z Space Steindler Theater.

…For a seemingly simple story of a boy/girl arriving in SF, this one has more twists and turns than Lombard Street…

Three years before the Stonewall riots in NYC, the Gene Compton Cafeteria trans, drag queens and queers riots in San Francisco’s Tenderloin began it all only to be lost in gay “herstory.” It has been re-discovered by playwright Adrienne Price, forging a union with composers Matt Fukui Grandy and Jeanine Adkisson creating this world premier.

Pictured (L to R): Chris Steele, May Ramos, Romelo Urbi. Photo by Jay Yamada

Red Shades tells the story of Ida Diamond, who as a boy in rural Nevada, dons a dress and is accosted by his father. The music and lyrics (which in a genuine and glorious surprise for a rock musical, are at least 80% crystal clear), take us on Ida’s journey. Dad sends him/her off to a hospital. The songs “Daddy Eggshells” and the wonderful “For Your Protection” are sung with panache and total drag-nurse commitment by the estimable Chris Steele.

Adam KuveNiemann gets to flex a host of scumbag sensibilities (and a terrific voice) as the abusive father, the sadistic doctor, and the sheriff. Ida finally escapes and arrives in San Francisco, finding a room with three of the wildest trans superheroes one can imagine (“Welcome to Flip House”). Chris Steele (Genevieve), Ezra Reeves (Tommy) and B Noel Thomas (Sherry) embody these three with amazing style and powerful vocals.

Pictured (L to R): Ezra Reaves, Chris Steele, Carmen Castillo, B Noel Thomas.
Photo by Jay Yamada

It takes Act Two to finally give us what the title is about—a hopefully fixable part in the development of this musical. When the hostility and threats of beatings arise, you put on the red shades and presto – you become a superpower and kickass with superhero strength. The shades bring rage into focus, and we can survive another day. Ida gets the glasses, and gets her life together despite the desperate attempts of her father and the Sheriff to arrest her. The shades win on all accounts. For a seemingly simple story of a boy/girl arriving in SF, this one has more twists and turns than Lombard Street.


Pictured, Foreground (L to R): Julio Chavez, Ezra Reaves. Photo by Jay Yamada

Sarah Phykitt has designed the terrific set and video projection work, Lyre Alston does spot on costume designing, and special mention must go to sound mixers Michael Creason and Daniel Hall who (except when the singer feels she has to screech and scream) give us the lyrics and thus the story. Bravo to co-directors Rotimi Agbabiaka and Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe for guiding Red Shades to the stage and to stage manager Marie Shell for wrangling this complicated, multi-cued production. She alone deserves a pair of red shades.



ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco base actor-director and is Professor Emeritus of Solano College Theatre. He is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact:


ProductionThe Red Shades
Directed byRotimi Agbabiaka and Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe
Additional DirectionMusic Directors: Matt Fukui Grandy, Sid Quinsaat.

Choreographer: Stacey Printz.

Intimacy/Fight Choreographer: Carla Pantoja.
Production DatesThru Nov 5th
Production AddressZ Space Steindler Theater SF, CA
Telephone(415) 626-0453
Tickets$0-$50 (Sliding scale)
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?----