BWW Review: Mrs. Kasha Davis and Darienne Lake Are Timeless in 80s LADIES at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
Thank goodness for RuPaul's Drag Race. There was a time when the majority of the general populace didn't know from drag. Only people who had a specific interest in the artform knew what it was, what it was about, what they liked and how to look for new drag acts. Every drag queen has a different act, and until you see them all, you just don't know. Thanks to Drag Race, more people than ever know about the artform and more people than ever want to see these artists at work. And even when a Queen appears on the show without winning, or making the top four, she has a platform and she has fans. Drag Queens are making their living plying their craft with huge fan bases who know and love their work and their drag. Drag Race has given these Queens a platform.
Mrs. Kasha Davis and Darienne Lake were, respectively, on seasons 7 and 6 of the reality show but have known one another for many years through the drag community and by virtue of living in the same city, and their friendship is extremely visible when they perform together, much to the joy and great good fortune of their audience. At last night's premiere of 80's Ladies, a house full of eager fans screamed and howled themselves silly as these two splendiferous and supremely gifted entertainers held their attention for nearly ninety minutes of great drag. It has to be said: sometimes audiences don't get great drag, and it hurts, but the fans will forgive, understanding that drag is a constantly evolving art. Well, Darienne and Mrs. Davis are evolving with their craft, beautifully.
The show 80's Ladies is a grand mixture of stand-up comedy, social commentary, nostalgia and music, all based on a decade that many people at The Laurie Beechman Theatre lived through, but not all of them. During their opening monologues, Mrs. Davis and Miss Lake spotted youngsters in the front row and zeroed in on them for a few minutes of wicked and wonderful improvised comedic chat, the like of which one expects and hopes for from a stand up comic, but doesn't always get. In fact, every single moment of 80's Ladies was bathed in professional respect for the art of drag, the tools of their trade, and the fans who support them. At first it looked like the show might be all comedy, which would have been completely fine with everyone in the room, judging by the shouts of laughter and the tear stained cheeks, but after their opening moments, Mrs. Davis announced loudly and proudly "THIS IS A LIP SYNC SHOW!" to an even greater applause than the first 10 minutes had brought. This crowd was there for whatever these demented Mary Kay Ladies were selling.
The theme of the show was the 80s and the format was a simple one: each Queen took turns entertaining with side-splitting comedy while her sister ran offstage to change into a new outfit that matched her next lip sync to an iconic 80s hit. Now and then the ladies would share the stage together (double your pleasure) and time after time they would come into the audience for a visit (double your fun!) and every single bit of 80s Ladies was well enjoyed by the grateful audience. These two ladies went out of their way to put together a well-conceived, expertly executed show with purpose and production values, with consideration and care. Every costume change was a full-on parade float with new dresses, new shoes, new wigs, new accessories. These ladies didn't just step offstage and put on a different wrap-around dress, they had headdresses and jewelry as big as boulders, they had capes and coats, they had props and audiovisual materials. The comedy was raw but accessible, the lip syncs were insane, with precise, vivid choreography, rather than struts and twirls, and the lip syncs had purpose, with several of them being respectful spoofing tributes to certain recognizable celebrities. Particularly admirable were Ms. Lake's dance skills and Mrs. Davis taking on Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter Dexter, but what is most admirable about these two dames is how well they work with one another, and with the audience. One hits, one volleys, back and forth until the crowd can no longer contain themselves, so the divas turn their attention to the fans and begin biting, comedic chats with the patrons in which the stars volley it back and forth with the crowd, not an easy thing to do, something that only the best stand up comics accomplish with the ease of these two ladies. Obviously, Darienne Lake and Mrs. Kasha Davis love their fans, they respect their audience and they brought them a show worth paying for and a show worth going out in winter weather to see.
The most beautiful sight last night at 80s Ladies wasn't the exceptional drag done by Mrs. Kasha Davis and Darienne Lake, though the drag is, in fact, truly beautiful. No, the most beautiful sight was a room full of strangers, all happy, all smiling, all singing and chair-dancing to their favorite 80s hits, and all falling deeper in love with two spectacularly talented and unquestionably fabulous Queens who have, most definitely, earned their court.
PS. Fans. Take cash. Be prepared to tip these Ladies. They earn it.
Follow Darienne Lake on Instagram and Twitter @dariennelake
Follow Mrs. Kasha Davis on Instagram @mrskashadavis and Twiter @KashaDavis and visit her Website
Photos by Stephen Mosher