Quick, say Gilda Wabbit out loud. (We’ll wait.)
If you’re over the age of 30 or so, you probably just conjured up an image of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny performing a seven-minute version of Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” set with lyrics based around Fudd singing Kill da wabbit.
That image is what the opera singer and drag queen Gilda Wabbit used as the seed to grow not only her drag name but her entire drag persona and the one-woman show she’ll be performing at Play Dance Bar on Thursday, May 9, called “Gilda Wabbit’s Big Gay Opera Show.”
Wabbit started her artistic career in New York City as a straightforward opera singer, often working five gigs at a time. She was a fan of drag and familiar with the scene.
Then, she met a drag queen who made an impression.
“Her drag (name was) Suddenly Seymour, and she did a whole live singing show, and she was the first drag queen I had ever seen singing live in person,” Wabbit tells Insider. “I asked her after the show … I said, ‘Do you do this for a living?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, this is my job.’ ”
For Wabbit, the idea of working only five days a week — i.e. just one full-time job — and picking her own music and singing what she wanted, when she wanted, was a little mind-blowing.
“I was like, oh, I’m doing something wrong because I’m working so much, but I don’t have very much money at all,” she recalls.
She started booking shows, noting that opera makeup has a lot in common with drag makeup, and singing live as a drag queen. She started booking more gigs — and then more. Suddenly it was time to go pro.
Wabbit hadn’t solidified a persona yet and decided she needed to create a queen that really embodied her.
“I wanted it to be a pun because I think that tradition of, like, funny drag puns is part of the charm of drag queens,” she explains. “But I also wanted my name to say classical music and comedy. I was thinking about everything, and I remembered that my first exposure as a kid to both drag and opera was Bugs Bunny in ‘The Looney Tunes.’ ”
The Gilda Wabbit persona allowed her to do exactly what she wanted to be doing as a drag queen — evangelizing for opera.
“I don’t want to say I swindle them, but audiences don’t know they’re, like, at an opera concert,” she says.
Wabbit developed material and turned it into a full-on one-woman show. It’s full of her beautiful contra tenor, wonderful music and filthy humor as seen in her sizzle reel, available on YouTube.
“If you don’t like opera jokes, pay your two-drink minimum and get the f%#k out,” she jokes.
Wabbit began filling audiences and selling out shows.
“I ended up in drag professionally in New York City for almost five years … then my husband got a job in Kentucky and said, ‘Hey, move back,’ and I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ ”
Wabbit had gone to school at the University of Kentucky, majoring in opera, and had enjoyed drag shows here, but she wasn’t sure she could make a full-time living.
“But also I had just gotten married and I was like, ‘I married my husband not to live miles away from him.’ So I moved back and very luckily landed the job at Play. Now I’m here, and it’s beautiful,” says Wabbit.
But that doesn’t mean her one-woman show will disappear. In fact, her Thursday performance is the first of many, as she’s working at the Play in Nashville as well and booking other gigs.
You’ve also probably already seen Wabbit at least once, maybe while scrolling through Facebook.
“I had just quit my day job and was off to the first day of a new drag brunch, chilling on the train,” she begins. “Unbeknownst to me, I sat down next to a woman in a niqab. Another passenger thought the contrast of the two of us sitting together would make for a cool picture, so he snapped a pic.”
You may already have guessed where this story goes, but just in case you are a social media luddite …
“It got posted to Instagram and started to make the rounds. Then an alt-right Twitter account reposted it with the caption: ‘This is the future liberals want …’ This Twitter account was making fun of the picture, but liberals picked it up and said, ‘You’re right, this is the future liberals want!’ ”
So whether you love drag, loony jokes and hijinks or opera, Gilda Wabbit is almost certainly the future you want. At least on Thursday night “Gilda Wabbit’s Big Gay Opera Show” starts at 7:30 p.m. at Play Louisville, 1101 E. Washington St. Tickets are $15.