Review: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Night of the Living Drag | 10.12.23, Stifel Theatre (with photo gallery)

Photo from RuPaul’s Drag Race: Night of the Living Drag by Jen Ruff

Drag in general came very late for me which is surprising. Being a teen of the ‘80s felt like everyone was just whatever they wanted to be. Madonna, Prince, Annie Lennox, Boy George, David Bowie, and every hair metal band made the play with androgyny so in your face that I guess I wasn’t caring when it entered pop culture again later. RuPaul’s Drag Race was 7 years or so in when I’d heard of the show from younger members of the family. It took a few more years to get any interest as I generally don’t like reality-type television.

One day though I did check out a YouTube performance and the artistry piqued my interest. So I started season one and binged through, appreciating the art but absolutely hating the encouraged “drama” aspect. Even though I was torn, I continued to watch almost begrudgingly because of the inner layer of artwork a lot of these ‘queens’ invested in their craft. What usually appeals to me though aren’t the “pageant” or beauty queen types, but the absolute freaks. That to me was where the true art was. The dare-to-be-different, the risqué, the envelope pushers—and none at the time were quite so standout as Yvie Oddly. It was the 11th season and once Yvie was making an entrance to the “Werk Room,” she already had my vote in hopes she’d win (she did!). While the art Yvie did definitely pushed the envelope, Yvie herself was hurting with every moment of the competition.

Yvie suffers with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers–Danlos syndrome type 3, which means she doesn’t produce as much collagen. Seeing her struggles to perform in the competition and since have endured her even more. Upon seeing the host of the St. Louis performance aptly titled “Night of the Living Drag” was Yvie, I was not only excited to go to watch—being able to cover this night of creativity was more than special. Yvie came out immediately transporting us all into a freakish version of her Twilight Zone. As the hostess of the evening, she spent a bit of time in and out of a wheelchair which was part of a horror-themed show but internally those who know her story know she’s performing on much borrowed time.

Yvie hosted with elite comedy and was the only performer to perform her own singing/rapping fully live, without one piece of lip sync. A true gem. Among the queens performing were true royalty amongst drag performers. This season 11 host was joined by season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall, who was the first winner having to compete during a pandemic. Jaida came out with her face in wraps—a nod to Twilight Zone episode classic “Eye of the Beholder”—but turned into a great performance of “Bongos” by Cardi B.

But the night kicked off with an enchanting Angeria Paris Van Michaels taking the stage in a very voodoo priestess Marie LaVeau decadent dress and really turning it out to “Star Talk” by J3r3m3. Her energy was so flawless and what the evening needed to get off and popping. New Orleans vibes got us all into the theme of the show as she added cute but devilish voodoo dolls to the performance and ending it in a very African jazz and hip hop high note. 

Denali came out dressed as English royalty performing a period piece until it was time for her to get down. This season 13 superstar can do it all: drag, beauty, figure skating, and … figure skating? YES! And she left the stage an absolute icicle, tearing us all up.

Then the part of the show that I knew I’d not be ready for. From Canada’s Drag Race season 2 was (yet another) winner: Icesis Coutoure. Icesis has a unique and innate style that few if any could truly measure up to. The piece was otherworldly, beginning with a spoken word about our planet by Morgan Freeman and thennnnn—slinking to the stage in an apocalyptic queen-regaled outfit, reading out instructions to be better humans. Taken from the elevated platform by four hot male dancers, she launched into serving us “King of Hearts” by Kim Petras. She spoon-fed us all and we ate the cake.

Jorgeous was a huge start of season 14. So tiny but giving every ounce of creativity and performance made her a quick fan favorite of the show and inserted her into many performances worldwide. For this evening, she began with a soft and sexy slow number to “Only in My Dreams” by the Marias, but I knew there’d be more. She ended the piece tearing the house down to “Halloweenie IV: Innards” by Ashnikko, which is one of the top songs of 2022 and ‘23.

The final single act of the evening was Tayce, who is a Welsh drag queen from the UK’s spinoff of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2.  In a barely there set of pasties and a thong, she absolutely crushed the performance to both “Attention” by Diamond Audio and “Eat Your Man” by Dom Dolla & Nelly Furtado.

The cast closed out the show by an ensemble number getting the last applause and every “YAS” we had left. It was a night of complete and satisfying freaky drag and definitely tricks and treats galore. | Diane Ruff

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