Variety is the spice of life and the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End has been home to a real variety of shows since re-opening last month. The latest offering is a limited engagement from one of the most famous and iconic Drag Queens from RuPaul's Drag Race - the legendary Alyssa Edwards.
Spilling the tea in the West End for one week only, Alyssa bursts on to the stage with her signature tongue pop. Without even saying a word, she has already got the audience eating out of the palm of her hands (not literally because of social distancing obviously). Flanked by four gorgeous and talented dancers, her first number is a lip sync to 'They Just Keep Moving The Line' from Smash! - this perhaps unintentional metaphor set the tone perfectly. Choosing a number from a cult show 99.9% of the population have never heard of (FOOLS!) let us know that we were in for a treat - that our immeasurable taste led us to being there to be let in on Alyssa's Secret.
Those expecting a show full of lip syncs would be in for a shock. Several of these were scattered around through the performance, including a show highlight in 'Wrecking Ball' but this was a show about Alyssa's life story so the vast majority of the stage time was spent exploring Alyssa's rich history with her describing her life in a way only she can. While perhaps that might not be what the casual Drag Race fan was expecting, this resulted in a beautiful mix of drag performance and theatre.
Though obviously there was a script for the show, there was a refreshing feel of spontaneity about the affair, with Alyssa at one point exclaiming "I don't read scripts because I AM the script". This allowed for a more intimate and special performance that felt tailored to each crowd. This was only heightened with Alyssa's fantastic clapbacks to shouts from audience members. Alyssa's banter with the audience was second to noine, regularly checking in with them to check if things she was talking about from America were a thing in the UK. Increasingly frustrated with the clear cultural divide, she exclaimed "No Babe Ruth, no credit, no fireflies. Unbelievable!"
Full of charisma (as well as uniqueness, nerve and talent) Alyssa commanded the stage from start to finish, ensuring the focus was always on her (should her dancers dare try to upstage her) displaying true diva behaviour but ensuring we knew we were all in on the joke. Fabulous one liners littered the show including "She's waxed, she's snatched and she's double vaxxed" and "I'd rather show up late and beautiful than on time and..."
While many of the stories had regular laugh out loud moments, there were also some more serious moments in the show where Alyssa displayed a more vulnerable side. Speaking about growing up as Justin coming to terms with her sexuality, there was a real relatability for everybody in that audience who had been through the same thing. Alyssa's way with words was flawless and ensured serious issues were dealt with the sensitivity they required, while still filling them with hilarious moments.
Stories from Alyssa's childhood were mixed with stories from Drag Race. Admitting to being her own biggest fan, she clearly had competition from the devoted audience of friends, fans, family and folk who lapped up every story she told. A brief Q&A from the audience really helped make the show feel intimate. While social distancing was still a thing, the audience couldn't have felt closer to her. Appearing in a box above the audience in her own Evita moment, Alyssa ensured there was never a dull moment throughout the 2 hour show, culinating with a guest appearance from Drag Race UK star Cheryl Hole. Sadly though, the ever present (and always hilarious) Pam never got to make herself known on stage.
Alyssa is a Drag Queen so obviously you would expect some incredible looks. She did not disappoint, appearing in a serious of fabulous and extravagant ensembles and wigs (the silver glittery one was my favourite) where one look would send the audience wild. Looking sickening with not a back roll in sight, Alyssa created a feast for the eyes and the ears in a show that was therapy for the soul.
Perhaps not the show many were expecting, Alyssa: Memoirs of a Queen is a fabulously put together show full of heart and hilarity. While she may claim to be a diva, Alyssa showed a side of herself that was relatable and created a brilliant show that is sure to appeal to fans of Drag Race and theatre alike. While she is only in the West End for a few more days, hopefully it won't be too long before she is back back back back again.
Alyssa: Memoirs Of A Queen runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until June 13th. Tickets from nimaxtheatres.com