Great drag lives on in Toronto at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Three minutes into Miss Conception‘s show at Buddies In Bad Times last night, I leaned over to one of my dates and murmured “Thank Maude there are still queens in sequins on rollerskates.” As she sang, and twirled, and mugged for the audience and gestured rudely with her microphone I settled into the deeply satisfying queer cultural ritual being expertly, lavishly performed in front of me. I sipped my drink and held hands with my sweetheart and sang along to Xanadu in great good cheer.
I am glad, I should say – very glad, and quite grateful – that there are still classic drag cabaret performers in the world, with actual costumes and live singing and splendidly hilarious hairpieces plying the second-oldest-trade in the world. I especially appreciate Miss Conception’s various homages to the show tune, a form for which I have nearly boundless enthusiasm (as was probably evident to anyone sitting near me, as I hummed along with every song as quietly as I could remember to do). Miss Conception’s combo of patter, lewdness and grade-A Broadway-style dance moves hit the spot for me, for sure, in a way that felt familiar, but also fresh.
Also familiar, but not so fresh, were the casually racist comments. There were also the requisite number of fish jokes (for newbies: two) and minor lesbian bating, which I do not adore but am typically willing to forgive in a drag act. Also a certain amount of cheerful straight-people baiting, which I do rather enjoy and frankly think is typically hilarious (see also: satire should run uphill). But when you ask a brown guy up on stage and your first comment to him is “Do you speak English?” I remember why there are some parts of the classic drag experience I like less. Note to all queens: racism, still not funny. And Miss Conception is – except for those few awful “jokes” – actually very funny, quite clever with a quip, and one of the best live-singing drag performers I’ve ever seen (which, honey, is saying something). She doesn’t need those jokes, and neither do we in the audience. Tired, tired; send it home alone with a bag of Doritos and don’t let it come out no more.
However. If you can ignore the brief, jarring racist throwaways and still enjoy the show, this is great drag – it has all the things that drag should be, fantastic production values, jokes, lots songs, the hand jive and even archival home video. If you have straight friends who’ve never seen a drag show, take them to Miss Conception: Stage to Screen (and when she starts looking for a straight guy, throw them right under the bus.)