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Review: A CHRISTMAS GAIETY, Royal Albert Hall

Review: A CHRISTMAS GAIETY, Royal Albert Hall

Big, bold and, at times, brilliant UK debut for Peaches Christ and Edwin Outwater's Christmas Gaiety.

Review: A CHRISTMAS GAIETY, Royal Albert Hall Drag queens are rarely charged with the crime of being understated so it is hardly surprising that San Fran's Peaches Christ and co-host Edwin Outwater chose to partner up with the Royal Albert Hall for the UK debut of their perennial Christmas show. Yes, you read that right: the self-called "London's most iconic venue" effectively became for one night a massive music hall as Peaches and Outwater introduced Brits to their old school drag variety show.

Peaches may be the larger-than-life headline name here but Outwater is no tag-a-long or stranger to this place. The experienced conductor was here in July when he made his BBC Proms bow in a dapper dark suit as part of Cynthia Erivo's "Legendary Voices" programme. Appearing with the BBC Concert Orchestra, his natty tartan jacket during the Gaiety gave him a jolly presence from the podium alongside his sequin-laden co-host.

La Christ opened the show with the usual gags that visitors to these shores seem to deemobligatory. Comedy at the expense of Nicola Sturgeon, Liz Truss et al may have been included to make Peaches seem informed on British matters or connect with the audience but frankly we're didn't gather here on a chilly Saturday night for a third-rate version of Have I Got News For You. When they were done with the ham-fisted potshots and announced that they had left a key prop behind in the dressing room (a fur muff which appears later and became the excuse for some sub-Carry On jokes), it gave the impression that, even for a cabaret, this show could have done with some more rehearsal.

Where this show excelled was in the variety of musical talent showcased here, even if their song choices were a tad obvious. The British-Nigerian queen Le Gateau Chocolat flipped the script on Frozen's "Let It Go" and "Walking In The Air" from The Snowman, delivering them through with cheeky edits and a deep baritone voice (check out our interview with them here). Cheddar Gorgeous is renowned for their high-concept outfits and did Manchester's Canal Street proud when they won the latest season of Ru Paul's Drag Race UK; their sequin-laden top hat and tails was bettered in the second half by a magnificent take on Elizabeth I. Brighton's Pixie Polite doesn't (yet) have the high profile of their fellow queens here but largely outshone them with their sunny, upbeat manner and crowd-pleasing songs.

As expected, Peaches had more than drag up their sleeve for the audience. They revived their traditional "Sleigh Ride" section as "Slave Ride" bringing on a strapping gentleman dressed like a Balenciaga teddy bear who proceeded to dominate and ride Peaches about the stage. The Fourth Choir gave us a brilliantly queered-up "Twelve Days Of Christmas" featuring butt-plugs, vibrators and "fiiiiiiive c*ckrings".

Father Jay Jay Revlon and two members of the UK House of Revlon danced around while we joined in on a full-voiced rendition of Madonna's "Vogue". Peaches interviewed Anna Lapwood for an uneven conversation: the highly accomplished organist and musical director waxed lyrical about the immense 9,999-pipe instrument and gave us some haunting melodies while the American, presumably in an example of what passes these days for West Coast wit, came up with single-entendre organ-based questions. Finally, musical theatre star Marisha Wallace was brought on for an uplifting closing number, Shakin' Stevens' "Merry Christmas Everyone".

A few technical issues - not least the foggy sound when Le Gateau Chocolat and the choir were singing - and Peaches' hacky hosting didn't distract too much from what was undoubtably a big, bold and, at times, brilliant statement show for the LGBT+ community. The eclectic cast showed that there is indeed a need for queer entertainment outside pubs and beyond RPDR, Outwater and his orchestra were simply magnificent and the sense of community in the hall was outstanding.

Peaches Christ will be returning to the UK alongside Jinkx Monsoon, BenDeLaCreme and Major Scales for Drag Becomes Her (29 May-1 June) at Leicester Square Theatre.

A Christmas Gaiety appeared as part of this year's Christmas At The Royal Albert Hall programme.

Photo Credit: Royal Albert Hall

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