Jinkx Monsoon has been a darling of the drag circuit since her underdog victory in season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race (arguably the best season of the iconic series).
At its best, what sets Drag Race apart is the incredible creativity and ingenuity its contestants are driven to demonstrate as the competition progresses. What set Jinkx and her season apart wasn’t just the outrageously high standards of all the contestants, but just how exciting Jinkx was revealed to be as a performer beyond her “drag”.
In the years since her win, Jinkx Monsoon has toured the world with her act The Vaudevillians (alongside her co-star, songwriter, accompanist and perfect foil: Major Scales). Anyone who has seen that show knows that Jinkx isn’t so much a “drag queen” as she is a world-weary, world-class cabaret performer trapped in the body of a 31 year-old man.
The Vaudevillians was a show of covers, slapstick and perfectly timed one-liners. The conceit – that she and the Major were Vaudeville entertainers, trapped in suspended animation for a century only to return and discover that their greatest hits had been appropriated and rerecorded as the greatest pop hits of recent memory – was perfect for this “old before her years” persona. And the music was at once catchy, familiar and entirely unique.
Jinkx’s new show – The Ginger Snapped – is bigger, better and more mature.
The songs are all original; the chemistry with the Major is in perfect sync after so many years on tour together. The production values have taken a leap forward. The projected animation sequences are fantastic – you have to pay close attention to Cartoons and Vodka with its many, densely layered references and perfect imitations of styles.
At the risk of getting too drag or Drag Race-centric, I couldn’t help but think back to Bianca Del Rio’s sell-out engagement at the Hammersmith Apollo back in Summer 2018.
Like Jinkx, Bianca is a break-out star and season winner who has gone on to tour internationally. Unlike Jinkx, Bianca has made two (execrable) films available on Netflix. What did she bring to her show? Barely 90 minutes (that still felt over-long) of three-year-old Drag Race gossip and in-jokes. Partially reheated, comedy offcuts. Bitter, sad and catty remarks without narrative or purpose that eventually lost the crowd completely when she “joked” about a member of the theatre staff being pregnant (because he was overweight) and offering to perform an abortion on him by pushing him down the stairs.
Along with King Lear, Bianca del Rio was one of my most anticipated and most disappointing events on the 2018 theatrical calendar. But at least Lear did what it said on the tin: Ian McKellen played King Lear.
Why am I on this tangent? Because, not only have I seen a lot of great drag since then, but The Ginger Snapped reminds us of just how phenomenal great entertainers can be – whether they’re subverting gender norms or not – and how much work and effort they invest in bringing a great and original act to the stage every night.
And when, in the intro to the song Friends, Jinkx draws attention to the fact that Bianca has eclipsed all other Drag Race winners in crossing over to the mainstream*, I was left with a single thought: it may be true, but it is also truly baffling.
Jinkx Monsoon’s The Ginger Snapped is a theatrical treat unlike any other. It is not just fan service. It is not just drag. This is a tremendously entertaining and insightful show for anyone who enjoys great entertainment.
The Ginger Snapped will be on at the Leicester Square Theatre until the 23rd of March before heading north. Check out the dates here.
*And “yes”, in the wake of A Star is Born and her turn on the Oscar’s red carpet, there’s a good argument to be made than Shangela has finally superseded Bianca, but as she’s only a Drag Race winner in our hearts, we can ignore that for the sake of argument.