BWW Review: LATRICE ROYALE'S HERE'S TO LIFE at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
High Ho Friends & "Family"! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in CABARET to bring you all the T.
The Royale Court Convenes And We Are Living For Latrice!
Dear Hearts, we took in RuPaul's Drag Race break-out star LATRICE ROYALE's opening night at the Laurie Beechman this week and, while she does indeed sing the TIT-u-lar "Here's To Life" to close out the night, the show itself is a pure cabaret of song and stories that give you the feeling of, "I know this person" by evening's end. Dearlings our beautiful Queen of the Big Girls took us all on a celebration JOURNEYYYYY through her life and times as she shared tales of a little gay boy growing up in Compton, CA, right through the choices that lead up to her time behind bars; and NOT the kind that serves our drinks.
As she entered the stage in so much gold lame and sparkles, with gold hair so tall it hit the ceiling (no really...HIT the ceiling my pets) she looked like some dazzling award trophy in drag and OMG That smile! Her full house knew immediately from the opening strains of her music that she was kicking off with "When You're Good To Mama" from Chicago, a number she turns out with the style, moves, and notes of a real pro. Though in interviews she has related she came to singing later in her drag career, Latrice IS a singer. Of that, there is no doubt. Her 26 years of doing drag; from her humble beginnings, where she entered a contest to get 2 free drinks, through her time on Drag Race, and the stardom she has enjoyed since, have polished this queen into a performer that makes her relationship with the audience her only priority. You can tell from her conversational, sometimes meandering, delivery that she has no real script. She knows what she wants to say and talks off the cuff, telling us of the rough time she had growing up in the hood, of the amazing mother who sacrificed so much as a single parent with 5 children, and how, in a moment, when a brand-new roommate said, "Hey Tim... You gay?" her simple "Yeah" brought such freedom to her and a few tears from us.
With her YUMMY-LICIOUS husband (married 1 year this month) Christopher Hamblin on piano, music directing and turning out some wonderful arrangements that support his star fully, Latrice paints us a portrait of life and love and some hard knocks in all the brightest colors of a Drag Superstar. Her rendition of "If I Can't Sell It (I'm Gonna Sit Down On It)" in her sparkling leotard and tights, filtered through her drag personae, recalled the best of, say, a Ruth Brown with a big dollop of Pearl Bailey. And if you don't know who they are, my little homo-lings, look 'em up... No really... go look them up NOW and come back.
Singing "I Am What I Am" from La Cage (Has there ever been an African American Zaza?) may seem an obvious choice given the story of overcoming family homophobia, but Latrice's show is anything but trite cabaret fare. As she sings and laughs and has fun with the room, she does more than tell her life story, she sincerely imparts life lessons about tough times and the joys that life can bring. Assisted by PJ Roberts on bass and David Tedeschi on drums, Hamblin gives his husband underscoring for her stories that is gentle, evocative and non-intrusive. At one point we caught the strains of the theme from Beaches as Latrice spoke about her 18 months of incarceration
BUT my angels... This is still a drag show and with her perfect lip-synch of "Still I Rise" with all the performance power, nuance, facial vibrato, intonation, and perfect synchronization, Latrice Royale showed why her kind of woman is called a drag QUEEN babies!
Latrice Royale Plays the Laurie Beechman Theatre in the basement of the West Bank Café this week only Thursday 8/22 and Friday 8/23. So, run don't walk, because...
We give this sequined extravaganza 5 out of 5 rainbows.
Photo Credit: Helane Blumfield