Battle of the Seasons – 2015 Condragulations Tour
House of Blues, Chicago
Experience recap by Donna Touch:
It was the coldest day on record since 1936. Being -8 degrees, with a wind chill advisory, didn’t stop the hundreds from packing into the House of Blues for the Battle of the Seasons show. Waiting for a friend, I got to watch the line of people shuffle in from the cold. What a mix! From trendy teens (it was an 18+ show), to girls-night-out gaggles, to grandmother/mother/daughter groups, to date-night straight and gay couples of all ages… RuPaul’s Drag Race definitely appeals to a wide audience. While it felt like a diverse gathering, I couldn’t help notice that the spectrum of color was limited which surprised me a bit.
While I did grow up watching RuPaul on VH1 and I’ve kept up with some of the newer escapades (my absolute favorite image posted here), I’ve never seen an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But how could you not want to support the top drag talent in the country when they land in your city? I’ve been to enough shows to have a good idea of what to expect and I have to say–even though I know I missed out on a lot of the seasoned fan insider jokes–it was an easy show to enjoy!
Featuring a rotating cast throughout the tour, our city stop included Michelle Visage, Alaska 5000, Bendela Creme, Ivy Winters, Jinkx Monsoon, Manila Luzon, Raja and (Chicago’s hometown hero) Sharon Needles.
With live singing, lip-sync and strut routines, variety acts and comedy skits, the show felt very much like an upscale drag show or burlesque festival. It wasn’t a fancy production (probably built for some of the smaller venues they’d be appearing in), but the ladies really did shine. Some of my favorite aspects of the show included:
-Alaska 5000’s opening number. A commanding setup to what you should know about the show, your attitude and living drag.
– Ivy Winter’s variety mix. Doing a quick-change routine, a juggling act and a butterfly stilt walk, this gal truly takes Gotta Get a Gimmick to heart.
– Raja’s buy my t-shirt. It was a killer transactional act that sold very well!
– Sharon Needles passion. Her main routine was definitely true to her character and her talk about her life in Chicago was really enjoyed by her fans.
– Jinx Monsoon’s realness. For one of her main numbers, her wireless mic would not go on. The music was paused and in her immense gown she towered over the stage crew in the wings while they scrambled to fix the issue. Grabbing a regular mic, she reset the mood with a quick chat of what it takes to be a performer. Not that these ladies need to prove they are professionals, but moments like that show off a performer’s natural talent.
– Bendela Creme’s burlesque tribute. It was really a flawless, funny, glittery, tassel swinging laugh at a classic burlesque number that the crowd loved! Her expressions really sold it.
And finally, I have to say I really enjoyed the transformations. It was a small cast for this show and the different costumes, makeup and hair changes really made it.
All in all, it was a good show. I really can say I only had one complaint. The transitions between acts really were a killer. After each act the show seemed to just end. There were short video intros for almost each of the performers or Michelle (who performed some of the numbers) did an MC intro, but neither could keep the momentum. As a result the audience lost focus and each act seemed to struggle at the beginning to regain their attention. It’s something a lot of the burlesque festivals and our show struggles with as well. It was good to watch though to get some ideas on how we could improve our own show flow.
A heartfelt thank you to all the performers in the show! Your passion and drive is really apparent. I’m glad I got to see you live and celebrate your success. Much condragulations to you all!