I’m going to start this review a little unorthodoxly with a couple disclaimers.
Firstly, I am a sucker for a guy in a corset. Seriously, I’ve been to three drag shows this year and loved every second of them. I love them because I have an incredible respect for anyone who is willing to challenge any accepted part of society, especially in such a public venue. I think gender-bending is so important, and I love that drag shows do it in such a way that celebrates the femininity or masculinity of whoever is performing in such a joyful way. I love celebrating bodies of any type instead of hoping that someone looked skinnier or fatter or had bigger boobs (or real boobs) or a smaller butt.
Secondly, this Bad Romantics performance I attended was not their actual show, or even a dress rehearsal. It was a run-through.
Bear these things in mind as you read this review.
For those of you who don’t know, Bad Romantics is Yale’s resident drag troupe. They’re putting on a show this weekend entitled “Circus,” and theatricality is the theme that connects all the acts. There are stilts! There are wigs! There are cat costumes! It really is a circus.
Let’s start with the good things.
This show had tons of heart. The performers gave their all, and it showed. Bikini Skill, the drag persona of Hannah Mogul-Adlin ’13, and her cohort were jumping and cartwheeling around on stage during their number “Can Can.” Regardless of the fact that they had performed minutes earlier, their enthusiasm made it feel like the first act, even though it was firmly in the middle of the program.
Moreover, the costumes were PHENOMENAL. I cannot stress this enough. Kyra Fey came onstage in the act “Fuck Me” (one of the best skits of the show) completely bling-ed out and totally owning it. Her voice was beautiful, and her acting was completely on-point. Throughout the show, the various decorative bras of Bikini Skill were impressive in both their ability to adequately contain her breasts in the midst of a lot of jumping around and their abundance of glittery embellishments.
There was also a huge variety of well-executed acts. My favorite act was the second-to-last “Circus of Love” (performed by the drag king Justin Rider) — a departure from the high-energy feathered acts that preceded it. Rider’s performance as a jaded alcoholic divorcee who sings about love was as funny as it was poignant and slightly depressing. He performed various acoustic covers of love songs like “How to Love” by Lil Wayne and “No Hands” by Waka Flocka to chronicle the process of falling in love and falling out of love. Along with a great voice and a present stage persona, he was really committed to his act — not something I could say rang true of the rest of the show.
I know that this was the first time they put the whole show together, so I feel harsh saying that they are totally unprepared, but it’s the truth. Some of the acts didn’t know their lines, the emcee (who is on stilts, which is pretty grand) didn’t know when to come out and at one point hadn’t even been given lines for an introduction yet. The lighting was *just* getting figured out while I was there, and the pacing was all over the place.
These are all things that I hope will be fixed with serious practice and severe ironing out of the program before their first show tonight.
Unfortunately, the show had some problems that can’t be fixed in a day. Some of the acts didn’t really resonate or even make much sense. “Heartbreaker” with Anita Man, Jack(ie) k.o. and Bikini Skill seemed like it had a story, but it wasn’t communicated to me in a way that made sense. I think it might have been about weird robot love. Maybe if I had understood it, I would have liked it better.
Another act, “I’m Tired,” suffered from what seemed like limited choreography. I thought the song choice was great, and Madam Mount Men (played by Cody Hooks ’13) looks great in heels, but the movement was stiff, and the two people that came in as supporting characters just stood there while the Madam was dancing. They didn’t add anything except an ounce of awkwardness.
But all in all, I liked this show. I think it has a lot of potential, and if it were better rehearsed or even a little bit more thought out, then it would be a great performance. Perhaps tonight they’ll put on the show that I know it can be.
“Circus” is showing Friday and Saturday night in the Calhoun Cabaret.