BWW Review: JONATHAN VAN NESS: ROAD TO BEIJING, Eventim Apollo
When Queer Eye premiered on Netflix in 2018, Jonathan Van Ness was a successful hairdresser and star of the web series Gay of Thrones and never would have thought that his journey was going to take the turn it did.
He went from relative anonymity to being a vocal advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, a body-positive personality on Instagram, and a revered grooming expert. After touring North America, he's brought his big personality and over the top attitude to the UK as well, before going back to the US and continuing Down Under in the new year.
Road to Beijing encapsulates everything Van Ness is, reconfirming him as the confident ray of sunshine that he presents on the show and on social media. Blunt but classy, he's unafraid to break down gender barriers and bring up uneasy memories to turn them around in a masterclass on positivity. It's not surprising that he's naturally and unabashedly hilarious, but he's got a certain je ne sais quoi that has him raise above the classic image of a gay comedian.
Three outfit changes lead him to floating around the stage in a sequined midi skirt, cream turtleneck, and gold Chanel knee-high boots as he recalls his younger years, discusses world politics, and feeds delightful tidbits of his life with the rest of the Fab Five (which is the collective name given to the Queer Eye co-stars, including Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, and Bobby Berk).
He speaks briefly of his rise to fame, glossing over the details (which can be read in his gorgeous new book Over The Top) but saying "When I say that I'm in a constant state of shock, what I mean is that I've been waiting for this all my goddamn life". That quote summarises the evening well. He's a natural-born entertainer who only needed a chance to shine.
Over the course of the show, his borderline obsession with gymnastics and women's Olympic games holds a place of honour: from comparing the election of Donald Trump to a skating competition (using video proof to better explain it) to delighting the crowd with a floor routine, he's an energetic stage presence.
Even though it's definitely the JVN show, the performance saw the addition of two supporting acts: Kyle June Williams and Mawaan Rizwan were an amusing addition to the set, but took up a longer part of the 90 minutes than expected. Their comedy - on the same queer line as Van Ness' - however, fit well into the night and only built up the audience's anticipation for the main star.
Road To Beijing cements his persona and works on detaching him from the series that made him a worldwide celebrity while still associating him to it. It introduces Van Ness in all his multi-faceted and accomplished elements and, most than anything, offers a a humorous yet educated take on a variety of urgent topics.