REVIEW BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon: The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show,The London Palladium
The House of Ru Paul’s Drag Race is now a juggernaut in mainstream entertainment, on and off TV screens. With contestants from the popular series continuing to extend their 15 minutes of fame. But with the franchise growing so large now, and Drag Queens dropping off the runway like the conveyor belt of a factory, Queens are going to have to begin to work harder and smarter to stick around.
Most Queens resurface through reappearances on Drag Race itself, appearances on other TV shows, scripted film and television shows, record deals and tours, or by returning to their roots, with live appearances in pubs and clubs. Those with celebrated status take their small shows on the road to larger and larger audiences.
Having won the title of “Queen of all Queens”, Jinkx Monsoon was the triumphant winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars series 7. Appearing originally on Ru Paul’s Drag Race series 5, Jinkx became the first person to win both. Beating the ‘all-winners’ line up, it is fair to say that Jinkx was a popular choice with audiences around the world. So it was not surprising that this year, The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show live at the London Palladium had sold out.
Reuniting with BenDeLaCreme, who came 5th in series 6 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and then 6th in Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars Series 3 after eliminating herself, BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon have now established their own brand of Holiday/Christmas show. Prior to Drag race the pair met and worked together in the Seattle drag circuit.
The brand started with two nights in New York, in the show titled To Jesus, Thanks for Everything Jinkx & DeLa in 2018. They followed this up in 2019 with All I Want for Christmas Is Attention. By 2020, and due to COVID restrictions, the show was filmed and streamed online, under the title The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special. In 2021, it became The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! And is now simply The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show.
I have been a fan of both queens since watching their appearances on Drag Race.
I especially championed Jinkx, the underdog in their season who showed incredible compassion and understanding during the make over episode where they were paired with a gay Veteran. Jinkx showed remarkable kindness to Dave, who discussed openly that he has AIDS.
I saw this particular episode just days after I was diagnosed myself as HIV+ so it really resonated with me.
Drag Race has continued to amplify the voices of people living with HIV with many queens now openly discussing their statuses and raising awareness, which is fantastic to see. But for me, it started with Jinkx. Watching Jinkx’s reaction and kindness towards Dave and saying to him “We’re a team, and you’re not in this alone” gave me incredible strength and confidence to tell others about my status.
In 2021 I had recently moved back to East London, having moved away during the lockdowns. I now live opposite the Troxy theatre where I had previously partied with Sink the Pink and raised money for HIV charities when West End Bares was held there.
I was delighted to have been invited to watch The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! as it meant I could take a friend and host drinks and nibbles at my flat before the show, and after the show I only had to cross the road to get home.
I remember being in good spirits. Spotting other friends who were there to watch the show too. It was exciting to be building up towards Christmas, and incredible to see theatres and venues open at full capacity, having lost our previous Christmas to lockdown.
The show was incredible. Funny, insightful, reflective. It married Jinkx and DeLa’s special blend of humour and creativity. With original songs that mocked festive tropes. Their observational comedy, built around the absurdities of religious and festive traditions worked incredibly well. It was smart and funny but also served effectively as a social commentary on the darker side of Christmas and religion.
The set up extended with Jinkx & DeLa creating caricatures of themselves which seemingly model the great screen icons and partnership of Crawford and Davis. DeLa representing a wholesome refined toast of Christmas, while Jinkx is a crude, rude, inebriated Christmas grinch.
Pre-recorded video sketches showed the pair living together through isolation. Again, these were very astute and insightful observations that everyone in the audience could relate to, making the gags entirely universal.
The original and borrowed music with a reworking of Boney M’s Rasputin, were instant crowd pleasures and some of the alternate lyrics were very effective.
I do remember feeling that the structure of the show lost its way towards the end, which I forgave as overall it was simply a lot of fun. There were also some sound issues, which again is a difficult thing to master in a one stop show, when for the pair this is the first time they’ve set foot in the venue.
Which brings me up to this year’s comeback. Playing to a sold out Palladium audience, I did what I rarely do when there are no longer tickets available to buy, and reached out to the PR and Press team to ask if there was any chance they could squeeze me in to watch the show. I was absolutely thrilled when by their kindness they offered me one of their remaining tickets.
Having enjoyed the show so much last year, and even more so had loved Jinkx’s victorious appearance in Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars series 7 that completed in July, I couldn’t wait to see the show in its one night engagement at the London Palladium.
I was excited to see where Jinkx & DeLa had taken the show next, and how I imagined it might have improved. I was, however, unfortunately disappointed.
Although The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show 2022, has a quite clever time travel concept, that in parts is effective as a reworked A Christmas Carol. It just didn’t measure up for me.
In honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, I didn’t know if this was going to be the exact same show simply repeated, or whether it would be a hybrid of reworked old and new material, or something entirely new. I recall feeling excited once I settled in to my seat and the show began and it was clear that this was a brand new show. But then I quickly felt disappointed when I realised it just wasn’t as good as last years. Which is the problem, any artist wants to come back with something better, right?
The show’s finale resorted to Jinkx & DeLa repeating their closing number from last year’s show, that included recycling their dresses with a reveal that was underwhelming when you had seen it before, despite being brilliant the first time round. But then for many of this audience it may well have been their first time seeing this, and for them I’m sure they enjoyed it.
The original and borrowed music with reworkings of pop anthems was let down by poor diction and the bad sound quality. As I attributed to last year’s production, it is not easy to master sound control when it comes to a show like this that pops up in a venue new to everyone involved, unless they hire the right people for the job. I think in hindsight had they hired a specific sound engineer who was familiar with the Palladium, and given them enough time to master the levels, the problem might have been rectified, and the songs could have been salvaged. As it was, it just felt like they had done a cheap job.
Which lies the big problem with The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show 2022, it just felt too scrappy for the Palladium’s stage. Some productions play on a cheap aesthetic as it can often tie in to a narrative. Tuck Shop’s Cinderella that starred Drag Race’s Baga Chipz in 2019, had a set made from cardboard boxes that leant themselves to the purposely raggedy look.
The London Palladium is probably the most prestigious theatre in London’s West End, and it is vast, which I am sure in their heart’s Jinkx & DeLa are undeniably proud and grateful to have sold out. But within that lies a responsibility or duty surely to deliver a show that is worthy to sit amongst the historical back catalogues of shows and performances that have come before it, not simply churn out a mediocre concoction that you might see in a small crowded cellar bar.
At times, the production felt thrown together quicker than a mini challenge, and I was left wondering what Ru and Michelle’s critique would be if they were able to wheel them out at the end to give their feedback.
What is testament to BenDeLaCreme who is credited with producing the show with her partner, who also cameos in the show as an stage hand dressed as an Elf. As the show closes Ben De La Creme acknowledges and credits the small team that had put to together. A team that if she’s honest with herself, she should begin to consider evolving out from.
Any producer will tell you it takes a village to make something happen, and sure when you’re starting out and catering to small venues, a small team will suffice. However when you create a sell out show that opens in the London Palladium. The standards should be higher.
Producers Tuck Shop who this year returned to the West End with Death Drop 2: Back in the Habit an ambitious touring show that features Drag Race alumni Willam, Cheryl Hole, Victoria Scone, and River Medway. This being their forth consecutive Christmas Show, you can really see the evolution and growth that includes bigger sets, better costumes, and greater production values. Tuck Shop might not have remained as loyal as BenDeLaCreme when it came to selecting who to continue working with. But it’s to Tuck Shop’s credit where they have had the foresight to aim higher, and have brought in more experienced professionals as their shows have grown bigger.
As I say I imagine this is largely down to loyalty rather than means, when it comes to BenDeLaCreme. It’s disputable that they couldn’t afford better. Aside from anything, Jinkx even acknowledges mid show as she toffs back a glass of champagne in character that she is happily sitting on a $200,000 windfall since winning All Stars. It felt to me that some of that money could have been invested into this show to make it bigger and better.
One friend who had paid for their ticket came away saying “Don’t think I was in the mood for it which didn’t help. It became a little one note and by the end I was ready for it to be over, But a fun evening nonetheless”.
Another friend who had paid £78 for a mid-range seat said “It was ok but I expected more tbh. Felt a bit like a low budget panto. Whilst the seats were actually quite expensive. Like musical prices. I won’t be going next year”.
I however, won’t be so quick to write them off, I do believe that Jinkx & DeLa have a winning combination, and although myself and some who were there might have felt disappointed by this show, the reaction from the audience was clear and loud. Rapturous applause and laughter throughout signalled that the majority of the 2250+ audience clearly enjoyed every minute, and not to look a gift horse in the mouth I really shouldn’t complain as I was gifted my ticket by their press team, who then pushed me for me to write up my review. I had considered not publishing this article as I truthfully never like to criticise a show that clearly means well, and has a lot of heart. But ultimately I have to be honest.
With the four UK dates already completed, UK audiences will now have to wait until next year, if the show returns. Meanwhile the tour continues across 30 dates in Canada and America. It’s unlikely the show will develop as it will be far too difficulty to rework now that it is up and running. In true festive hope, I believe if and when The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show returns in 2023, it will be back bigger, better and more fabulous.
In the meantime it has now been announced that Jinkx Monsoon has landed the coveted role of Mama Morton in Broadway’s Chicago. An incredible achievement, which I have no doubt they will smash, and for now I would definitely rather pay to watch that.
For tour dates and to watch their online movie visit:
Follow them on social media:
That Stagey Blog
Running alongside That Philip Dehany
A new lifestyle blog.
Available together on the YouTube channel “I Am That”.
Donate to my channel by PayPal