Drag Mania: Heels of Hell at The Olympia Theatre
Drag has gone from being an underground LGBT subculture that started in ballrooms in black and Hispanic neighbourhoods of New York City (As seen in Paris is Burning) to the mainstream with shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. The cast of All Stars 3 was announced last Friday. The show has appealed to youth of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
RuPaul’s Drag Race has launched the careers of over 100 drag queens over the years and they are constantly touring. Heels of Hell featured six fan favourites: Trixie Mattel (Season 7 and All Stars 3), Jinkx Monsoon (Season 5 Winner), Willam (Season 4 and only queen to ever be disqualified), Alaska (Season 5 Top 3, All Stars 2 Winner), Courtney Act (Season 6 Top 3), and the “Queen of Halloween” Sharon Needles (Season 4 Winner). For the price of about €60, all six queens put on one hell of a show.
Before the show began, there was a long queue outside the Olympia with many young, enthusiastic fans. Once inside the venue, songs featured on Drag Race boomed, and the energy of the crowd was palpable. The audience sang along and danced to songs like “Sissy That Walk” and “Born Naked”. It felt like Beatlemania – except this is Drag Mania.
The show was introduced by Dragged Up, a group of drag queens based in Dublin. They lip synced and danced to Halloween classics “Thriller” and “Ghostbusters” before the headliners took over. MCing the show were Dublin drag queen Victoria Secret and Manchester drag queen Divina DeCampo, who was the first drag queen to appear on The Voice UK.
The show is best enjoyed as a Drag Race fan, but even if you aren’t a super fan who has “Ruwatched” every season at least a few times, you can still have a wonderful time. My husband went to the show and had a blast, even though he’s only watched seasons 2-4. This drag show was a variety show with dancing, live singing, jokes and banter with the audience, and some live guitar by Trixie Mattel. Fans loved the jokes about the Drag Race alumni of past seasons and judge Michelle Visage, who will be a judge on Ireland’s Got Talent.
Each queen had at least one set of her own and those who were in groups, like the AAA Girls: Alaska, Courtney, and Willam, had their own set. Often, there would be duets and it seemed like all the performers had good chemistry.
Some highlights from each of the sets include the AAA Girls singing a funny parody of Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together”, referencing the Heathers vs Boogers storyline from Drag Race season 3; Jinkx Monsoon making jokes about Donald Trump and Brexit (the audience screamed loudly that Ireland is not part of the UK in response to that and that was a running joke during the show); Trixie Mattel singing a medley of songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Alaska singing the seasonally appropriate “This Club is a Haunted House” in a devil costume; Courtney Act giving Britney Spears impersonator and Season 8 contestant Derrick Barry a run for her money with her rendition of “Oops I Did It Again”; and Jinkx Monsoon coming back onstage to sing a song about two of her favourite things “Cartoons and Vodka”; and MC Divina DeCampo chugging a pint of Guinness (and not exactly enjoying it) because VictoriaSecret suggested that she try a Guinness in Dublin because it’s better.
Of course, this would not be a Halloween Drag Show without Sharon Needles, dubbed The Queen of Halloween. Sharon Needles closed the show with a bang, making this the true highlight of the Halloween-themed drag show and a real treat. In her trademark spooky style, stage hands rolled out a coffin with her initials on it and she popped out with a clothes hanger singing songs like “Supernature”, “Black Liquorice”, and “Call Me on The Ouija Board”. During her set, Sharon Needles was catcalled by a man in the audience and handled it very well, telling the man how that is an unacceptable thing to say to women and how he should put his money where his mouth is, basically. The audience applauded. It was great to see drag queens being strong role models and for fans as young as 14 and 15 to see a good example of standing up to dehumanising, sexist behaviour.
Seeing Drag Race contestants perform live is a much different experience than seeing them on the show: there’s less of the drama with all the entertainment and the show is interactive with lots of singalong and call-and-response friendly songs. When you go to a show featuring Drag Race contestants, you’re guaranteed to leave dancing.