Drag is not new to Las Vegas. Kenny Kerr’s Boylesque was all the rage in town, for decades (it was a longtime favorite of my late great-aunt Esther’s), while the likes of Toni James, Frank Marino, and Larry “Hot Chocolate” Edwards have been werking their tucks and lace-fronts on the Strip since the ‘80s. But, for the most part, these queens were impersonating female icons such as Judy Garland, Cher, Tina Turner, Joan Rivers, Patti LaBelle, and Marilyn Monroe. But, to the best of my knowledge—and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong—RuPaul’s Drag Race LIVE! is the first casino-based production show where the queens are not coming out and lip-synching as a tribute to another artist, but rather, are headlining as themselves. And that, my friends, is progress: And it’s wonderful.
Frankly, you’ve gotta hand it to Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato of World of Wonder Productions, not to mention one Mr. RuPaul Charles, for recognizing how facilely they could translate RuPaul’s Drag Race for the Las Vegas Strip. What’s more, thanks to the fact that each season of RPDR features between nine and sixteen queens, each of whom will—thanks to the Internet, social media, touring, and appearances at RuPaul’s DragCon—achieve the sort of recognition that plays perfectly with a Las Vegas-visiting, ticket-buying audience; you’ve got a virtually never-ending supply of talent.
This is not to say that every contestant we see on RuPaul’s Drag Race is a good fit for a high-energy Las Vegas revue (because let’s face it, few are). Some queens prefer to perform on the cyber-stages of Instagram and TikTok; while others might not have the stamina to perform five nights each week for months at a time (or the inclination, for that matter). It’s hard out there, for a queen—especially on stage!
Which brings us to the newest lineup for RuPaul’s Drag Race LIVE!, which is returning to the Flamingo Showroom at Flamingo Las Vegas on Thursday, January 19. Firstly you’ve gotta have a great foundation—words to live by, in the drag demimonde—and in the case of RPDR Live!, this includes original-recipe stars like the clever and multitalented Season 10 finalist Asia O’Hara, who does a dozen costume-changes in each show (that’s 4,000 changes to date!), and Las Vegas’s own Derrick Barry (Season 8, and All-Stars Season 5), who has dropped from the Flamingo Showroom ceiling 350 times, for a total of 12,250 vertical feet.
Next, you bring back a pair of fan favorites. In this lineup, that means Season 12 winner and All Stars Season 7 competitor, Jaida “Look over there!” Essence Hall; and Eureka O’Hara, who not only competed on Seasons 9 and 10, and was a runner-up on All Stars Season 6, but also stars alongside Drag Race alum Shangela and Bob the Drag Queen on HBO’s much-acclaimed series, We’re Here (for which she and her co-stars serve as consulting producers).
Finally, you introduce a couple of new queens into the mix. To wit, Season 14’s gorgeous Jorgeous, the self-described “tiny spicy dancing diva” who was the first RPDR contestant to survive four bottom lip-syncs, to have performed in two three-way lip-syncs in a single season, and to have been part of both a double-save and a double-elimination in the same season. And, as the cherry on top, Season 10 winner, Aquaria, the Gen Z protégé of NY nightlife doyennes Suzanne Bartsch and Amanda Lepore, who became the first drag queen to walk the red carpet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2019 Costume Institute Benefit (aka the Met Gala), and was one of the faces of both the Moschino x H&M capsule collection and of M.A.C. Cosmetics’ Viva Glam 25 campaign. * **
All told, it’s one heckuva powerhouse lineup, full of dazzling performers who are gonna leave audiences gagging!
RuPaul’s Drag Race LIVE!
Flamingo Showroom | Flamingo Las Vegas
Click HERE for info and tickets
Get into it!
[Editor’s Notes: * Due to the theme of the 2019 Met Ball, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” the red carpet was actually pink ('Millenial pink' to be precise); and while Aquaria (in Maison Margiela) was the first drag queen to trod upon it, she was followed in very short order by Violet Chacki (in Moschino) and RuPaul (in a suit by Zaldy) / ** Aquaria was one of the 18 artists, influencers, and activists (dubbed “MACtivists”)—alongside Troye Sivan, Jacob Bixenman, Alex Mugler, Princess Nokia, Parker Kit Hill, Deja Foxx, and Lea T—who comprised M.A.C. Cosmetics’ Viva Glam 25 campaign]