There is no shortage of reality competitions on television, each one trying to find the next superstar in its specific field: “The Voice” for singers, “Project Runway” for designers, “Face Off” for make-up, “Last Comic Standing” for comedians, etcetera etcetera.
America’s next drag superstar, however, requires all of the above (and more). Contestants on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” need to be at least a little skilled at not just one area of expertise, but at many: design, modeling, acting, comedy, make-up, singing and dancing. That’s way when you take a handful of the best contestants from past seasons and put them together into one show, the result is an entertaining and eclectic mix of personalities and talents.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of The Seasons 2016 Extravaganza Tour, which stopped at the City National Grove of Anaheim Friday night, is much more of a variety or talent showcase than a battle. Hosted by longtime “Drag Race” judge Michelle Visage, the show featured eight queens from past seasons: Adore Delano (season six), Alaska Thunderf*ck (season five), Courtney Act (season six), Ginger Minj (season seven), Miss Fame (season seven), Phi Phi O’Hara (season four), Violet Chachki (season seven) and an opening DJ set by Pearl (season seven).
Pearl’s DJ set was a bit lackluster. The crowd seemed enthusiastic to see Pearl herself, but the actual music did little to get the crowd energized or dancing. Memories of “Wake up, Pearl!” from season seven no doubt played in people’s minds as Pearl put minimal effort into her set. Luckily, as soon as the show itself started, the energy drastically changed. All the queens performed a “Little Mermaid” inspired number before Visage emerged, singing a parody of Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with the girls dancing beside her. The song choice and performance could not have been a better fit, playing on Visage’s harsh critiques from the show, and it definitely started the show off strongly.
Each queen then had a chance to show off her individual talents: first up was Adore with a brilliant, powerful and strong live performance of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” a fitting tribute one day after the legend’s death. Next on the stage was Ginger Minj, who got the entire crowd laughing with a lip sync take on Adele’s “Hello.” Other highlights included a runway walk where many of the girls showcased some of their famous looks from the show including Courtney Act’s angel-wing dress and Violet’s spin reveal dress.
The live version of the “Snatch Game” challenge from the show was also fun and entertaining, and featured Alaska reprising her Lady Bunny impersonation and Ginger doing a hilarious take on Michelle Visage herself, turning her into a deep-voiced Jersey guido. Visage also got in on the action throughout the night, not only joining an impressive group performance of songs from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but also giving a moving cover of Madonna’s “Take A Bow” with images of the gay rights movement displayed on the screen behind her.
While every queen was strong and skillfully put their unique talent on display (Miss Fame even sketched a drawing for one of her numbers), two of the most famous queens present were a bit disappointing: Alaska and Violet. Alaska no doubt made everyone laugh multiple times, including her appearance on the runway as season eight queen Cynthia Lee Fontaine (complete with a sign that read “Cu Cu” and the red outfit that sent Cynthia home). However, in her performance, Alaska sang some songs from her album “Anus,” but none of them were the biggest ones that fans really wanted to hear such as “Your Makeup Is Terrible,” “Hieeee” or “This Is My Hair.” Even though her performance was strong and hilariously featured a lightsaber battle between her and some Stormtroopers, the inclusion of some of her more famous songs would have made it even stronger.
Additionally, season seven winner Violet Chachki also fell a bit shy of meeting fans’ high expectations. She’s become famous for her elaborate and artistic live performances that include aerial stunts, however, she did none of that for Battle of The Seasons. While her time on stage was no doubt entertaining, including a number where she stripped down to her bare chest and a rendition of her single “Bettie,” her reputation had preceded her and it seemed like the audience was expecting a little more.
Neverthless, the two hour show was extremely fun and entertaining and would satisfy any “Drag Race” fan. It’s amazing to see drag queens on a bigger stage than a nightclub where they could really showcase high end drag. Indeed, Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent: these may be the four criteria RuPaul says make up the next drag superstar, but as these models/singers/comedians/dancers/actors/designers proved, it’s really so much more.
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