The Danforth Music Hall, like most nights, is a flurry of activity. The lobby hums with conversation squeals of excitement and an anxious line-up for coat check hugs the wall curling around the corner and up the stairs towards the balcony seating. Impossibly high heels, wigs of all colours, shapes and sizes dotted the horizon of heads. Eyelashes for days, faces beaten to high heaven and costumes reserved for only the most important evenings out on the town. It’s the sort of energy even Lady Gaga wishes she could excite, but this isn’t a Gaga show. This is drag.
If you’re not familiar with RuPaul’s Drag Race, or even RuPaul herself, you’ve been missing out. The queen of Drag, who took flight in the 90’s with her hit single “Supermodel (Model of the World)” along with her own talk show and numerous film and television appearances. Friday night wasn’t about RuPaul herself (not in attendance on the tour) but her drag dynasty thanks to Drag Race. A television event that introduced RuPaul to an entirely new generation has grown from queer culture phenomenon to mainstream television darling.
Hosted by Ru’s longtime friend, and Drag Race panel judge, Michelle Visage, Battle of the Seasons is an ensemble performance by various queens from the past 6 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. BOTS (Battle of the Seasons) is currently on its largest tour ever. A lead up to the Season 7 premiere, Monday night with more past contestants appearing throughout North America, than previous installments.
Toronto played host to seven queens including Ben De La Crème (Season 6), Darienne Lake (6), Season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon, Ivy Winters (5), Jiggly Caliente (3), Pandora Boxxx (2) and Alaska Thunderfuck (5).
BOTS was a high-energy marathon highlighted by solo performances and parodies of Drag Race staples “Snatch Game,” where Alaska gave a dead on performance as season 6 queen Laganja Estranja. While the mini-challenge had the queens dragging up audience members, or in Ben De La’s case accentuating the outfit of beloved local drag queen Allysin Chaynes. Michelle Visage, formerly of R&B trio Seduction, wasn’t simply an emcee, performing a number alongside Jinkx and Ben De La Crème in pure camp fashion.
The main event however was the solo performances from Ivy Winters’ performance on stilts, Ben De La Crème’s burlesque, Jinkx’s Meryl Streep Into The Woods number, Darienne’s I Dream of Jeannie/Tom’s Diner by Susanne Vega mash-up to Pandora’s clever cocaine filled parody of Frozen. The night was about the contestants of Drag Race. Whether simply looking fierce while lip-synching or performing comedic gold, these queens are stars in their own right.
Drag has always been a source of inspiration for mainstream pop music, and it’s easy to see why. Never taking themselves or drag too seriously, these queens know how to entertain, giving the dragged out fan, young and old something to cheer for, drag at its finest.