For those unfamiliar with “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” it’s a reality TV show that loosely combines elements from “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway” with 13 to 14 drag queens competing for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.
Saturday night at Tucson’s Rialto Theater, Alaska Thunderf-ck 5000, Carmen Carrera, Detox, Ivy Winters, Manila Luzon, Pandora Boxx, Sharon Needles and Willam came together in a fantastically vulgar performance hosted by Michelle Visage.
The lights went up on Visage, who set the night’s tone with several lewd jokes before introducing Willam, the only contestant to ever have been disqualified from the program. In typical fashion, Willam, coined as season four’s “Bearded Barbie,” performed a flirtatious and somehow acerbic number while wearing minimal clothing. Surrounded by men, William even pulled two fans onto the stage, both wearing matching Willam face tees.
Alaska Thunderf-ck 5000 followed with a campy routine of her iconic “Your Makeup is Terrible” completed only by smearing lipstick across her cheeks and interrogating herself (both versions) on video. Carmen Carrera, in her only act for the night, pranced across the stage wearing nothing but glittering pasties, perhaps unkindly reminding her audience that she’s prettier than any other woman can ever dream to be. Detox, one of the most uncouth yet endearing performers, spent the majority of her stage time stealing drinks and phones from the VIP section — both of which were shoved up her lime green mini skirt.
While every queen brought a very loud, and more than often raunchy, song and dance number, Pandora Boxx and Ivy Winters stole center stage. Boxx, known for her quirky sense of humor, offered a wonderfully strange mash-up of Britney Spears, show tunes and clips from the Harry Potter series all while dressed as a very sultry Hermione Granger. Ivy Winters, a circus performer, stepped on stage first in stilts as a monarch butterfly, and later as a sequined maleficent-esque baton-twirler reminiscent of the dragon’s ability to create and swallow flame in “Sleeping Beauty.”
Surprisingly, it was the highly anticipated Sharon Needles that seemed to fall flat. Needles, who bases her drag off of a zombified Kelly Bundy from the ’90s “Married … with Children,” notoriously won RuPaul’s fourth season through a fan vote. Despite beginning her opening number, “Call Me On The Ouiji Board,” by emerging through a coffin, it was her second tawdry ballad followed by a somewhat familiar speech to the audience, (“I don’t believe in God, but I believe in each and every f–king one of you!”) that she seemed to lose momentum. Later, however, while wearing nothing but white underwear and a sparkling leather vest, Needles closed the show by mooning the crowd and, by the sounds of jeers and wolf-whistles, winning her fans again.
In essence, this show was filthy. Carrera offered a fantastically racy rendition of Vanna White, Manila Luzon brought back Tweaker, her alien-monkey act from season three, a slicked-up and perfectly sculpted member of Ru’s pit crew grinded on stage, Visage made a thousand and one cheap jokes about her chest, and the entire theater roared in hysterics and incredulity.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons” is on its third leg right now and, according to its host, has sold out every night. While Drag Race introduces and endears its audience to new queens every season, it’s only after seeing each of them live that their real talent becomes clear. Battle of the Seasons was a very weird but nonetheless lovely exhibition of each queen in all of their goofy talents and ridiculous senses of charm — putting on one of the most entertaining shows of the year.
Reach the reporter at Lindsay.Drucker@asu.edu