The drag-king phenomenon is partly about women who perform dressed as men. But not entirely.
"We stress a broadening of the way that gender is depicted and performed, and the way that we even identify as performers," says Josh Little. Little is a member of the MadKings, the Madison-based drag-king troupe appearing Saturday night at the Majestic Theatre.
Joining the MadKings at the event, called Hot Mess!, are "the best in Midwest drag kings and burlesque." That's a category that includes, among others, the Madison burlesque groups Foxy Veronica's Peach Pies, and the Milwaukee-based drag king troupe the Miltown Kings. "I'm excited to see what it will all turn out to be," says Little. "I'm sure it's going to be wonderful."
At Hot Mess!, the MadKings will do numbers in various genres. Songs slated to be performed include "We Both Reached for the Gun," from the musical Chicago, and Usher's "You Make Me Wanna."
Founded in 2005 by performers Crash Deep and Justin Sider, the MadKings now number more than a dozen. The troupe's shows have been a mainstay at the south side gay bar Club 5.
Earlier this year, the MadKings performed at Milwaukee's Kingstock, a drag-king event that featured performers from as far away as Georgia. That event was hosted by the Miltown Kings, who are an inspiration to Little, 22, a Brew Town native. "I saw them in Milwaukee when I was 16 or 17," he says. "It was pivotal to see them perform, do drag, have political pieces."
Like the Miltown Kings, the MadKings address political themes. Aspects of their show, says Little, question "the binaries that exist, and end up restricting a lot of us in everyday life." The gender binary, he says, "oppress a lot of us who don't fit into the binary as well as others may."
But the MadKings' show is entertaining as well as political. "We always stress performance and making art," says Little. "We're going to do boy bands."