Drag Race legend Alyssa Edwards brings tongue pops, back rolls and heart to the West End stage
Theatre’s back, back, back again, and Alyssa Edwards is its unexpected new star.
Walking into the Vaudeville Theatre – mask on, temperature checked, ticket in hand – I wasn’t entirely sure how a West End show starring, by and about Alyssa Edwards would work. After all, there’s a big difference between watching a two-act theatre revue and bingeing “Best of Alyssa Edwards” YouTube compilations for the 17th time in lockdown three. Tongue pops and back rolls will only take you so far – but fortunately, Alyssa Edwards is much more than that.
If you’ve watched her Netflix series, Dancing Queen (or read PinkNews‘ eye-opening interview with Alyssa, here), you’ll be familiar with the Texan queen’s genuine warmth and lightning-quick wit – both of which seem to find their natural home on the West End stage. Alyssa, Memoirs of a Queen is a one-woman show, with its loose narrative at times tumbling into pure stream of consciousness.
It’s the Alyssa Edwards way: anecdotes lead into more anecdotes lead into accidental non sequiturs. A genuinely touching segment about Alyssa’s experiences growing up gay in the Bible belt abruptly turns into a story about cum. At points she stops mid-story, having recalled something she knows will make her “friends, fans, family and folk” howl with laughter. The crowd is in the palm of her hands – shouting compliments, calling out shade – and Alyssa knows exactly how to whip them into a frenzy.
Of course, there are dance numbers (backed by four handsome dancers) packed with splits, lifts and backflips, dazzling costumes (including one very familiar dress), and wigs so enormous they make me worry for the wellbeing of Alyssa’s vertebrae. The second act is almost entirely devoted to Alyssa’s two Drag Race runs – tea is spilled on Coco Montrese, that All Stars 2 face crack moment, and how if it wasn’t for Shangela, she may never have wound up on the show at all.
You can’t help but shake the feeling that had Alyssa ignored RuPaul’s calls, she still would have – one way or another – fought her way to this stage, so magnetic is her presence. She’s a joy to watch, even in the moments where she’s clearly gone off-script, and the entire thing is camp with a capital C-A-M-P. Is it groundbreaking? No, but that’s not why we’re here. Alyssa Edwards is here for a good time, not a long time – literally, the show ends Sunday (13 June) – and if you’re after some good, clean(ish) fun, then this is just the ticket.
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