Leicester Square Theatre, London.
London and in fact most of the UK has had a long love affair with the drag queen. From the remotest of working-men’s clubs to the streets and bars of Soho; from the boy actors of Shakespeare’s Globe to Lily Savage’s Blankety Blank, the drag queen is unquestionably a part of British culture. Hairspray, Matilda the Musical, Priscilla and now Kinky Boots are major musicals that feature drag in its many forms, but for some reason there has been no regular high-end cabaret drag show in the West End since the heady days of Danny La Rue, except perhaps the exceptional Madam JoJo’s.
The Supreme Fabulettes are set to change all this with their latest show, Viva La Drag. Created two years ago by entrepreneur Walt Utz, the Fabulettes edged their way onto the cabaret circuit, showcasing immaculate wigs and make-up and an array of spectacular and amusing frocks, but their key ingredient – the thing that makes this trio exceptional – is their excellent live vocals. Lots of drag queens will lip-sync through their repertoire while others may sing, but the Supreme Fabulettes specialise in bold, powerful three-part harmonies and Viva La Drag is a strong showcase for their work.
The team has always struggled somewhat with a narrative, and Viva La Drag is an ambitious attempt to give the group a sense of history. Never outstanding comedians, the banter between the three was always the weakest point of the show, but the addition of a fourth Fabulette to add conflict and Miss Sheila Simmonds as den-mother and confidente to the girl group, solves the comedy/narrative issues. Simmonds injects the show with some refreshing Aussie humour and affords the girls plenty of time to get changed for the next set.
The addition of the hilarious Simmonds to fill the gaps means that the Fabulettes can concentrate on what they do best, namely belting out a succession of hit tunes and getting the audience up on their feet and dancing. Anthems such as ‘Proud Mary’ mashed up with ‘Rolling In The Deep’, ‘Back to Black’ and ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ have been staples of their act to date. Viva La Drag introduces a wealth of new numbers including ‘Vogue’, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ and even a riff on ‘The Cell Block Tango’, which broaden their range and only add to the fun.
William Baker’s astute direction ensures that the pace never slows and that the essential balance of music and comedy is delivered correctly. Moving forward, it would be great to see the girls performing with a live band as opposed to click-tracks but surely it’s only a matter of time for this dynamic team.
Cast: Miss Vicki Vivacious, Miss Vanilla Lush, Miss Portia De Fosse, Miss Silver Summers, Miss Sheila Simmonds