Sonja Morgan’s Cabaret Is the Wackiest Live Show You’ll Ever See

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

At the age of 29, few things are as soul-affirming as getting an earnest text asking if you want to see Real Housewives of New York alum Sonja Morgan’s live show. Getting a request like that is up there with the significance of having an in-unit washer and dryer, your copay on a doctor’s visit being less money than you anticipated, or a friend’s cat taking a shine to you and only you during a dinner party. Having lived about a third (God freaking willing) of my life so far, these little moments of unexpected, boundless joy are few and far between.

And yet, that happiness hardly compares to the elation of seeing the show, aptly called “Sonja In Your City,” itself. The performance—which is not really a performance so much as it is a 1920s vaudeville act directed by David Lynch and Mark Frost—combines stream-of-consciousness conversation with sexy burlesque, all while attendees get liquored up on heavily poured cocktails. The audience is as much a part of the show as Sonja is, whether they like it or not. The result is something strange and uniquely fabulous, like watching a group of people walk up to a birch tree with a sparkly mini-dress taped to it and then clap for an hour. I remember all of it, and yet, I remember nothing. Sonja Morgan’s live show is both a waste of money and the best $59 I’ve ever spent.

I began my trek to one of New York City’s “Sonja in Your City” installments much like Sonja might: with an open container. It was Friday, Apr. 12, and I scurried into Manhattan on the C Train with two cans of Kylie Jenner’s unexpectedly delicious, low-alcohol canned vodka soda, Sprinter, in my tote bag. Upon meeting my boyfriend close to City Winery, the drinks-and-light-bites chain that hosts Sonja’s show, I cracked a Sprinter and strolled along the pier until we reached the venue, where we met another friend to complete our party of three. When we bought the tickets, our table was the only one remaining with three open seats available. Sonja’s a hot commodity! This would, however, mean that we’d be sitting with a stranger.

Sonja Morgan performing at her cabaret show.
Courtesy of Author

Having been to BravoCon twice, I thought I had an idea of the kind of person who would’ve bought a solo ticket to see Sonja Morgan live: bawdy, Bravo-obsessed, and perhaps even a tish problematic. BravoCon attendees have no qualms about walking up to the star of their favorite reality show for a meet-and-greet wearing a shirt emblazoned with 15 different Real Housewife mugshots, so surely the person we’d be sitting with would be a chatty stranger looking to make three new friends for the night.

As it turns out: Not so! We were seated next to a snooty gay man in his late twenties—let’s call him Bartholomew, because I don’t remember his name and he looked like he had family money—who barely looked at us when we sat down. A formal introduction didn’t help much, either, but I did manage to get out of him that he had seen Sonja’s show before. “I went with a friend, but I don’t remember any of it because I was so drunk,” he told us. That was exactly the kind of review I was looking for. Little did Bart know that he increased my anticipation for the show tenfold. We placed our drink orders, and I quickly regretted not eating more before arriving, because whoever poured the Bombay Sapphire into my martini must’ve had She-Hulk: Attorney at Law hands and human wrists.

Sonja Morgan performing at her cabaret show.
Courtesy of Author

Miss Morgan herself was unexpectedly punctual, arriving just 16 minutes after the show’s 7 p.m. start time. (For Sonja, the woman who gave us one of RHONY’s best episodes all because she took forever to get ready to leave for Atlantic City, 16 minutes might as well be early.) NYC-based drag queen Tammy Spanx, who “moderated” the show—there is no moderating Sonja Morgan—told the sold-out crowd that she had been called two hours before the show began and asked to host. To know Sonja and how her team of interns operates is to know that, even if the line got laughs, Tammy may well have been telling the truth.

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But some production chaos is par for the course, the house wouldn’t have been so packed if they were expecting anything else. When Sonja arrived, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause as she strode about the stage while campy, horn-heavy burlesque music played. This entrance took up about five minutes of the 44-minute show, and yet, I would’ve been fine with it being the entire act. Sonja struts around while the music blasts, spreading her legs to sit on backward chairs and draping herself over a purple Wayfair couch that I assume she dug up from the basement storage in her townhouse. At one point, she was handed a mask by a disembodied intern hand, with feathers as tall as the Chrysler Building. This was Sonja’s Eyes Wide Shut moment, but the look on Bartholomew’s face stayed stone and wine-soaked when I yelled, “Fidelio!”

Sonja Morgan performing at her cabaret show.
Courtesy of Author

Next, Sonja sat down with Tammy for an intimate conversation. Forget Frost/Nixon, this is Spanx/Sonja—Housewives deserve political pardons for any wrongdoing too! Our star was intent on covering everything that anyone might want to know about her. No topic was off-limits, but good luck getting Sonja to talk about it without falling into a tangent about something completely unrelated but still endlessly compelling. At one point, Tammy asked how Sonja’s daughter, Quincy was doing. Sonja initially began to talk about Quincy graduating college, before continuing, “My prenup was never honored, I never got alimony, I never got child support! Long story, which you will never figure out and I will never say on television.” Cries of, “Tell us!” filled the room, but Sonja is a woman of her word, and just kept it moving. “I made love with my husband on New Year's Eve—the first time we decided to have a kid and—did you watch Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy? I didn’t watch it, why was Dorinda [Medley] saying I fib and I tell stories? Whaddyatalkinabouuutuut?”

When people in the crowd tried to get her to elaborate on her feelings about fellow RHONY castmates, Sonja was nothing but tight-lipped and gracious, even toward Bethenny Frankel, whose denunciation of the network that made both stars famous has gotten Bravo into hot water. “By the way, Heather, Carole,” Sonja started, making me think two of Sonja’s castmates from Seasons 5 to 7 were in attendance, “NO VIDEO.” I quickly realized that neither Heather Thomson nor Carole Radziwill was there, and Sonja was just referencing some distant memory that only she could conjure.

It was at this point I became slightly worried. I was one martini into my two-martini dinner, and I had been taking copious amounts of video footage. “You will get kicked out,” Sonja continued. “Didn’t you tell them, Tammy? I am so offended, everyone here supports me, if you take a video, you don’t love me! You’re exploiting me!” The rest of the audience, who had also been taping since the show began, looked around in confusion. The crowd almost turned against her, starting to murmur and wrinkle their brows. But like any professional, Sonja with the Sexy J turned it around. “I’m a recluse, I’m an artist, I party with JOHN JOHN KENNEDY!” she said, quoting one of her most memorable moments on RHONY to the crowd, who all finished the line with her.

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I had seen no posted signage about pictures or video, but I still felt a little bad. “I don’t want to be canceled,” Sonja told her audience. It struck me funny that Sonja didn’t say anything problematic during the show; half the time, I lost track of what she was even talking about to begin with. Yet, here she was, worried about being harassed online for it. I was sad to see a woman I’ve watched on television for years and even interviewed—where I witnessed her candor and true joie de vivre firsthand—anxious that someone might misconstrue her words or actions. This little glimpse of vulnerability was more gossipy than anything Sonja said all night. It was a revelation that silently disclosed just how much her ability to trust might’ve been affected by years on television. Are Sonja’s ribald sensibilities mere covers, just showy statements and full-body gyrations that veil the difficulty she has believing someone?

Sonja Morgan performing at her cabaret show.
Courtesy of Author

Maybe so, but I can’t know for sure. What I do know is that, even if it’s all an act, it’s an act that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Sonja was on that stage for a mere blip of my life, but I will never forget it. I’m not sure the same can be said for Bartholomew, who went to the bathroom no fewer than three times during the show, either because his house blend white wine went right through him or he needed to “powder his nose.” Tough break, given that he missed some of Sonja’s best one-off lines. I’ll leave you now with a small selection:

“I’m wearing the intern’s panties.”

“Chris March, he died, right?”

“I’m bored with pussy, I love dick, but sometimes I do charity.”

“He’s got a nice, flexible dick and he doesn’t take Viagra.”

“I’m smart and I get fucked all the time.”

“My husband married me because I could be a good mother and I could cum vaginally.”

To answer your question: Yes, there was a standing ovation before she left the stage.

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