Leading up to World Pride in Toronto, drag queens and kings dazzle the audience in A Chorus Queen
Looking for a fun night out now that World Pride is officially upon us? Make your way to Hart House Theatre, where behind a big red curtain, kings and queens of drag are waiting to entertain you with flashy numbers, high kicks and a whole lot of sequined dresses. A Chorus Queen, the Official Drag Musical for 2014, is on now, with proceeds going to the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.
If you’re not the type of person who would normally be found at a drag show, have no fear – Friday night’s audience was made up of a wonderfully eclectic group, many of whom seemed unsure at first yet jumped to their feet at the end of the curtain call. There were people of all ages, races, genders and types, including a few kids who seemed riveted by the bright colours and sparkling performances, even if a few of the more ‘adult’ moments (mercifully) went over their heads.
A Chorus Queen tells the story of three drag queens who decide to audition for the final three spots at The Moulin Rouge in Paris, and have to wind their way through different types of personal and professional obstacles along the way. The production includes songs to suit everyone’s tastes – from Liza Minnelli classics to show tunes from contemporary musicals and back again.
The pacing is slow at times and some of the scenes could use less dialogue in general, but the energy and pride evident on the performers’ faces makes up for many of the show’s shortcomings. The costumes are gorgeous and both the wardrobe and make-up teams ought to be commended on the amazing work they’ve done. The ladies sparkle, shimmer and shine in all the right ways (and places) and I wished I could have taken a dress or two home with me at the end of the night.
My date for the evening was my friend Kerrie, and she and I both agreed that the show’s standout was Mama Rose (Chantelle Helena Carr/Farra N Hyte), who kept the narrative going, engaged the audience through sultry, sassy monologues, and razzle dazzled in all of her numbers. I also found myself unable to take my eyes off of Tanya (Justin Deschaine/Laydee Justice) and Dede (Andrew Pelrine/Bunni Lapin) whenever they were onstage, and it wasn’t just because of certain strategically placed lights, butterflies or boas.
The ensemble is made up of handsome men who do lots of choreography in very little clothing, and Kerrie pointed out how much they all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Even when things were a bit technically muddy in the footwork department, they never stopped smiling and they offered great support to the leads – including physical support in some wonderfully executed lifts. The choreography could use some tightening in general, but the dancers who are strong are very strong, and you’ll enjoy watching them and seeing the fun they are all so clearly having.
The songs are what make the show worth seeing, and many of them will be stuck in your head as you leave the theatre. Some of the others you may make a mental note to look up – we certainly did – as they’re just too fun to not listen to again and again. (Fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber beware, one very intense number may leave you unable to think of the Phantom of the Opera in the same way ever again, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing…)
It was humbling and exciting to be part of this World Pride affiliated event, and the mix of characters both onstage and in the audience made me proud to be a Torontonian. If you want to support a good cause and be entertained at the same time, then go see this show. The cast and the organization deserve your support, and the performers prove what one of the numbers claims: “give ‘em an act with lots of flash in it, and the reaction will be passionate”.
- A Chorus Queen is playing until June 28th at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle)
- Shows run every day excluding Sunday at 7:30PM, with matinees on Saturday the 21st & Wednesday the 25th at 2:00PM
- Tickets can be purchased online and range from $35 – $49, with Student & Group pricing available as well as same-day rush tickets available beginning at 11AM on performance days
Photo of Justin Deschaine/Laydee Justice, Andrew Pelrine/Bunni Lapin & Devion Farley/Devine Darlin by Time of the Month Drag Production