Review: The Vaudevillians, Contact Theatre

Described as ‘vintage cabaret with a twist of drag’, RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon’s latest show The Vaudevillians is nothing short of brilliant. Jinkx and her composer buddy Major Scales have put together a rowdy and rousing show sure to delight their legions of adoring fans. From Vaudeville covers of songs like Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ to the kind of audience participation that can only be described as ‘intimate’, the duo, going by the moniker ‘The Vaudevillians’ have crafted a must-see cabaret comedy.

The premise is wonderfully ridiculous – 1920s Vaudeville act The Vaudevillians were frozen alive during an avalanche on their tour of Antarctica, and have finally thawed out, thanks to global warming, only to find that their songs have been stolen by pop stars over the decades. Now, they finally get to reclaim their music and perform the originals to the audience.

The Vaudevillians allows Monsoon to flex her comedy muscles as well as showing off a ridiculously impressive set of pipes, as well as allowing Scales a chance to showcase his 1920s-inspired reworking of pop hits. If you wanted to hear a vaudeville cover of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, you’ve come to the right place.

But the music, though fantastic, is not the best thing about seeing The Vaudevillians. No sir. It’s all about the charm and charisma of Monsoon’s character Kitty Witless: an unpredictable, coke-addicted nymphomaniac. Monsoon relishes slipping into Kitty’s skin (and her gorgeous gowns), and loves using her character to interact with the audience. Queen of a good clapback, she’s quick to shut down any unwanted additions from the audience, pointing out the one audience member making trips to the loo early on in the show: “Bit early for a walkout, isn’t it?” and then welcoming him back every time he takes his seat.

Whether she’s dragging my not-unwilling plus one onto the stage to throw items of clothing in his face, before doing a headstand in his crotch (I kid you not. He loved it); or sitting in an audience member’s lap and flirting outrageously with him to the chagrin of his boyfriend, Monsoon loves a chance to be unashamedly in your face (quite literally). “I love you, Jinkx!” comes a scream from the back of the theatre, halfway through the show. “Who’s Jinkx?” she shrieks back. “I’m Kitty, remember?”

But it’s not all about Kitty Witless. Her husband, the nerve-ridden Dr Dan von Dandy is able to hold his own, performing a rap during Kitty’s costume change, to thunderous applause and firing off jokes, one after the other, with great timing. The lesser known of the duo, Major Scales proves to the audience that although he might not have been the name on the bill that sold the tickets, he’s definitely worth watching.

Sadly, the show at Manchester’s Contact theatre is the penultimate show on this Vaudevillians tour, but fear not: Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales fans! The double act are sure to return in 2018 with a new show.

Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales will be touring again in 2018. For more information and tickets, see www.jinkxmonsoon.com

Iqra Choudhry

Iqra Choudhry

Iqra Choudhry is a PhD student, writer, procrastinator, sometimes poet and lover of theatre. When not at the theatre, you can find her curled up with her nose in a book, or tweeting about feminism and race at @iqrathebookworm.