Review: DRAG THE MUSICAL at The Bourbon Room

They are serving charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent at the Bourbon Room, baby

By: Oct. 09, 2022
Review: DRAG THE MUSICAL at The Bourbon Room
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If the creators of Drag the Musical were trying to perfectly blend the rowdy fun of a drag performance with the glamor and polished veneer of a Broadway musical, they hit the ball out of the park. Especially thanks to Spencer Liff's inventive staging and punchy choreography, the show is either a riotous musical bursting out of the seams of the intimate Bourbon Room or a drag revue elevated with a solid narrative, pristinely-timed punchlines, and innovative novelty routines. Liff's theatrical background shines through and firmly places what could otherwise become a frivolous and gimmicky cash grab headlined by familiar personalities as a legitimately riveting theatrical event. The book is rife with genuine heart and the story is infused with a warmth that leans camp (fun!) rather than saccharine (pandering!).

Sitting amongst an audience of drag fans (or in some cases, more specifically Drag Race fans, which any drag show aficionado can tell you is its own thing) Drag the Musical leaves no drag show promise unfulfilled. Dynamite opening numbers for each of the rival drag clubs give ample opportunity to showcase many of the names on the marquee. What the team has done well is fused a cast of musical theatre performers with headlining drag superstars, placing each within a role in which they can excel. While Nick Adams' Alexis Gillmore can belt in a tenor range better than anyone on the stage, he is at his best when performing the showtunes-- a song and dance man through and through. Any doubts one may have about the show are quickly dispelled when Adams performs "She's All That" lit only by LED flashlights. Joey McIntyre, on the other hand, is showcased in all his heartthrob glory with genuine rocker riffs and killer bridges. The undeniable and unequivocal star of the show, however, is Alaska Thunderf*ck, whose first entrance (in terms Broadway World's readers will understand) is like witnessing Ethel interrupting Uncle Jocko's auditions or Carol arriving at the Harmonia Gardens. She hoists the show up, providing that x-factor, legitimate drag persona that is intrinsically reliant on the audience present-- a give and take that can only be developed by a seasoned dame of the most disreputable establishments. She receives the loudest applause of anyone upon her entrance and spends the duration of the performance repaying the audience tenfold. Every gag, every lyric, every cross of the stage is oozing with the star quality that makes Drag a ticket worth every penny.

Other stand outs in the cast include Kayden Koshelev as the ten year old Brendan who is navigating his expression of self as the adults in his life try to tell him who to be. To call his performance "cute" would be an insult (even if he is adorable) because he holds his own against a cast of performers who have been headlining shows since before he was born. His performance of "I'm Just Brendan" humanizes the realities of Queer oppression which underly the rest of the narrative and lends an emotional element to the show which only serves to make the ending more joyous. Watch out, "Ring of Keys": there's a new ballad sung by a questioning kid coming to tug at our heartstrings! J Elaine Marcos is another standout as two show-stopping characters. Although an unfamiliar face to many, her appearance on stage by the end of the show elicits as much a response from the audience as any other star up there. Jamie Tortellini's Drunk Jerry is a natural crowd-pleaser, and the ensemble of queens made up of Jujubee, Jackie Cox, Jan Sport, Lagoona Bloo, Aria B. Cassadine, and Nick Laughlin are a uniform delight.

I am so excited to see how the show develops and grows in time. If I had to cite any negatives, while I understand the desire to introduce each club separately, the book is weakened by not immediately introducing the feud between the Fish Tank and the CatHouse. The rivalry becomes the driving force behind the story, yet is only significantly introduced after we have learned about the financial woes of the Fish Tank. An opening number that introduces the rivalry would simply service the story. In my opinion, the current iteration of the show has one too many songs (it's "Wigs", they should cut "Wigs") but that might be one of those elements that differentiates Drag from a formal musical and harkens to a club revue. Ultimately, it is a show we will all be telling our grand-gays that "we saw it before it went to New York."


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