I’m glad that Dean Misdale got to live his fantasy but there was truly not a whole lot of magic to be found in Life’s A Drag.
I suppose we’ll begin with the good. Listening to Dean tell a story is very much like hearing your gay best friend gossip about his sexcapades. It’s very familiar, for some it’s very likeable. The older heterosexual women in the audience were having a great time and there’s something to be said for that. The final number had everyone clapping and singing along. I have a feeling that perhaps I’m not the target audience, but I’ll keep going anyway. I hear friends telling me about their gone-wrong Grindr dates often, and while I get a chortle out of it, I wouldn’t pay to see it. I suppose Dean knows this and is trying to up the ante with his singing, the schtick he are known for. He is a good vocalist, and I’ll get into that later, but it isn’t enough to make the whole show entertaining.
As you may have picked up on by now, I love drag queens, and for a variety of reasons. Dean felt less like a drag queen and more like someone wanting to do an autobiographical jukebox musical but felt like it wouldn’t draw in an audience, so they decide to put on a wig and a dress to have something to advertise. The working title was probably ‘Life’ and then he added the drag bit as an afterthought. He did look very beautiful in the wig and the dress and the makeup, but I didn’t see the larger than life personality that I have come to expect, nor the regular physical comedy, nor the encapsulating glamour of queens who enjoy slow ballads. It was just really average. A take on drag where everything that makes it entertaining is stripped back. If this was a take on how the bones of drag is a wig and a dress maybe I could get on board, but pretty much none of this show was about Dean Misdale the drag queen. It was all about Dean Misdale the man.
So much of this show was Dean either talking about his flaws, like illegal things that should probably only be mentioned in the show and maybe not even then; or his seemingly infinite successes. Being in Crown musicals, being beat out but only by Casey Donovan – and I couldn’t tell if that was bitterness or bragging. Some things were told out of chronological order which occasionally made it hard to keep up. For someone with years of experience who talks so often about their confidence, I found it strange that Dean struggled to look up while speaking and singing – often opting to just close his eyes.
One thing that dropped the rating by quite a lot is that I’m not sure if Dean can dance. There were a few dance breaks during the songs and it was sort of stepping side to side and moving the arms up and down, very much club dancing. It wasn’t fresh, it wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t a performance. I’m surprised that a drag queen as established as Dean decided to stick to a karaoke tape when he could’ve had backup singers that could’ve had a strong suit in dance so the breaks weren’t so lackluster. I think the lack of extravagance or effort is what made it feel less like a fringe show and more like a midweek entertainment slot. I don’t see a love, or a passion, or even much effort in the drag or the performance or the show. The closest he comes to looking excited about anything in this is the singing.
Dean’s vocals are good, no doubt about that. I did get the sense though that he was so busy channeling other brilliant vocalists – Tina, Dolly, Mariah – that he forgot to include his own character. His own inflections, vocal quirks, his own personality in his voice. Even the deeply personal song choices sounded pre-manufactured and like he was trying to impress us instead of feeling the moment. He also relied a little too much on the coronavirus to drive the story and segue us into the next song.
I would like to briefly praise the Court Hotel for being a very good venue to the audience. The seating went higher as we moved to the back of the audience so everyone could see, which you’d think is a given but it really is not. The sound and lighting tech was clearly having a great time as she boogied in her booth. The lights were always relevant to the tone of the show we were at and enhanced the atmosphere by quite a lot. The sound was always right. The room we were in had it’s own character between the stage and the fancy walls. I hope to see another show in the Red Room at The Court.
This show has been done many times before by many different people and is just re-skinned. We’ve all met this person before and you’ll either love or hate them. It’s a drama diva who is here to complain about her life so you feel better about yours. If you love the classic gay man in a dress chatting and singing show, and I know that people do love that, you’ll love Life’s A Drag. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.
The Velvet Card Critic