YouTube comedienne Colleen Ballinger has taken her now-iconic alter ego, Miranda Sings, on the road, in a fantastic and often-empowering show that highlights comedy as well as some sneaky progressive politics. Performing at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, IL, Ballinger has done a great job in transferring her creation from the short, five-minute videos she posts on YouTube, to a fleshed-out, 9o-minute show. The performance was a great showcase for Ballinger’s many talents, including a beautiful singing voice, but more importantly, her sharp wit and comedic vision.
The show starts off with Ballinger performing as herself. First dancing to Fifth Harmony’s “Worth It” (joined by two dancers, one being her best friend Kory DeSoto, a fellow YouTube personality), then belting “Gay Best Friend” a reworking of a Frozen number that she sang with DeSoto, the strongest moment came when Ballinger brought out her ukulele to warble a neat little ditty that slammed all of the hate comments she got on her videos (some of the comments are brutal). The hate comment song is an important part of the show because it highlights much of what Ballinger – and Miranda Sings – stands for: self-empowerment. Like many performers with large tween fanbases, Ballinger does a good amount of work on anti-bullying, and making light of the horrible comments is a way for Ballinger to inspire others who may also be suffering from cyber bullying (though it has to be said, being a famous and wealthy celebrity may take some of the sting out of the meanness).
And as appealing a performer as Ballinger is, it’s her character Miranda Sings that is the real attraction for the audiences, as Ballinger has an inventive way of introducing her creation. She begins by singing “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, and in the middle of the song, she does a quick-change on stage, before finishing the song as Miranda Sings, smoothly segueing from Ballinger’s pretty, trained voice to Miranda’s strangled yowl.
Part of Miranda’s appeal is her self-confidence – she has a lot of it. Ballinger’s inspiration was the glut of self-deluded wannabe singers who clog up YouTube with terrible performances. But what was once merely satire has grown into an entity in itself. Miranda Sings is deluded – she cannot sing and she’s a grotesque (Ballinger slathers on an obscene amount of lipstick and twists her face into sneers, grimaces, pouts, and scowls), but she’s still the heroine of the story. While she rails against promiscuity and overt sexuality (she screeches to her audience not “to be porn!”), she’s still lustful, having her eye for her fellow YouTube star, Joey Graceffa (who is openly gay, but that minor detail doesn’t seem to dampen Miranda’s ardor).
As a major artifact and product of pop culture, Miranda also engages in pop culture. She performs medleys of radio top 40 hits with the unbridled enthusiasm of little kids in their bedrooms. When Ballinger-as-Miranda does herself up in homemade costumes to recreate various pop music scenarios, Gilda Radner’s Judy Miller comes to mind. And like Radner’s creation, Miranda becomes all the more appealing because of her musical ineptitude, which is dwarfed by her enthusiasm.
During her shows, Miranda will invite some of the screaming children on stage to perform with her. On Friday’s show, she repeated the custom, and in one sequence, when looking for a new BAE (Internet speak for boyfriend), she brought on three kids – one of whom, a wriggly little kid name Octavio, nearly stole the show with his hammy stage presence. Even when not being engaged with, he was still drawing attention with his mugging and his goofy presence. When Miranda and he were engaging in some cute comedy bits about dating, he perfecting her strange, put-upon vocal tics (it was clear that Ballinger realized she was dealing with a force).
Part of what makes Miranda Sings rather subversive is that its creator manages to sneak in her world view and progressive politics. An unabashed liberal, Ballinger threads some of her thoughts and beliefs into the show – the most explicit being a picture of Donald Trump under the headline of those who have too much confidence (the largely conservative Rosemont crowd gave a strangely muted response to that joke). She also stresses LGBT equality – both in and out of character, and her gleeful obliviousness to the haters promotes a healthy self-esteem.
As a canny, brilliant creation, Miranda Sings deserves wider appreciation. She’s got a huge following, but it’s largely niche. Hopefully that will change when Netflix premiers her sitcom Haters Back Off (her motto). When appearing with Jerry Seinfeld on his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Ballinger proved that even when paired with a comedic institution, she can more than hold her own. Because the bulk of Miranda’s audiences are tween girls, many can dismiss the character (too much of pop culture consumed by young girls is dismissed). As proven in her show, Miranda Sings is easily one of the most interesting – and funniest – creation in a while.