There were plenty of moms and daughters dressed alike in Miranda uniforms — red sweat pants, button-up shirts and a big splash of bright red lipstick smeared well beyond the lip lines.
If Tucson’s nearly sold-out audience at the Rialto was a case study of her fan base, Miranda Sings — the alter ego of YouTube superstar Colleen Ballinger — has no generation gap among her fans. Young and old alike are drawn to her.
Frankly, what’s not to love about the 27-year-old entertainer, whose show Sunday night was reminiscent of her YouTube videos — zany and off-key in a tone-deaf sort of way that can become grating until Ballinger inserts herself into the act, singing with a refined almost classically trained, sweet soprano.
Miranda Sings is a one-woman variety show: She sings parodies of popular songs, invites rabid audience members to join her on stage and performs little skits, all wrapped into a well-choreographed 75 minutes that her fans — she calls them Mirfandas — greet with squeals and howls that were far too loud to be contained in the small confines of the Rialto. You can bet the students settling into The Cadence housing complex next door could hear the ruckus on the top floors.
Ballinger is right up there with the biggest YouTube sensations, taking a character she created six years ago and turning it into a career that boasts 1.9 million YouTube subscribers and more than 180 million upload views of her videos. She isn’t played on the radio, has no major label record deal and isn’t signed to a cable sitcom deal. And yet, she sells out nearly every venue she plays, including the Rialto, with little to no advertising beyond her own social media pushes.
The line to get into the Rialto Sunday night snaked from Congress to Broadway. Inside the Rialto, the merch line forked in two directions, with fans filling the lobby and lining up on the balcony staircase.
Every time someone made a move on stage moments before the show started the audience howled and squealed; it was beyond deafening. They even screamed when Ballinger’s parents, Tim and Gwen, were escorted from backstage to their seats. A couple dozen fans even waited in line after the show to get a photo with the parents, which was mind-boggling for the security staff trying to clear the theater before Ballinger’s meet-and-greet.
It’s easy to see the appeal. At her Tucson show, Ballinger as Miranda rewound her career right back to her birth — a young man from the audience who was far too excitable to be on stage with Miranda played the role as surrogate birth mother — and bringing us up to date. The she launched into the crux of her current tour, “Selp Helf,” which boils life down to four concepts: porn, bullies, love and self isteem — her misspelling, not mine. She was prom queen, prom king and president of the drama club while she was homeschooled. She showed childhood photos, including one of her with a scowl on her face after she was passed over for the lead role in the “Crucifix” and didn’t get to be sacrificed.
She read her hate mail, shown on a large screen behind her, but bleeped out the curse words even though they were printed on the screen, and, in one of the more hilarious skits, invited a red-headed boy of 11 or 12 onstage to go over the finer points of dating. The biggest piece of advice: When you go to the movies, sneak in snacks — in this case a bag of Cheetos — and stuff them in your pants. She then invited the boy to take some, which he did reluctantly. “They’re warm, huh” she said, and the audience let out a collective eeww. At the end of the “date” — the boy admitted it was his first — she invited him to kiss her goodnight, and when he did she squealed in her Miranda nasal tone and scolded him for the perversion of kissing here given their obvious age difference.
She sang her favorite parodies of popular songs including “Happy,” “I Like Big Butts” and “Born this Way” with the chorus “don’t be a drag, just be a queen,” danced her version of tweaking — none of that butt-grinding; that would fall into her definition of porno — and took on a girl from the audience named Bella in the “fluffy bunny” challenge. Poor Bella had to stuff big marshmallows in her mouth and try to speak while Miranda put tiny ones in her mouth. When it was obvious Bella couldn’t shove another one in her mouth, Miranda declared herself the winner, made Bella spit the marshmallows into Miranda’s hand and then took a bite. That promoted another round of eewws.
Miranda Sings was the second YouTuber to pack the Rialto this summer. Violinist Lindsey Stirling kicked off the summer with a show in late May.