‘Werq the World’ struts around the mid-south with top-notch drag talent

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Jaida Essence Hall, winner of the 12th season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” opened for the LA tour date of the “Werq the World” tour, which took place at the Shrine Auditorium on Friday. (Fitz Cain | Daily Trojan)

Rain in Los Angeles is rare. But this weekend, South Central was thrust into an even more distinctive kind of reign: the rhinestone, high-heel domination of drag A-listers. “The Werq the World Tour” hit the Shrine Auditorium Friday night, featuring a lineup of nine drag queens from the popular reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Now with 14 regular seasons, seven All Stars seasons, and so many international spin-offs that even “Drag Race” superfans like me find it hard to keep up, the franchise has taken the world by storm and taken dragging further than ever before. in the public consciousness. .

As its title suggests, “Werq the World” is another entry into “Drag Race” world domination: the Los Angeles leg was the 50th stage of the North American leg, and the 85th since the start of the tour. The roster of queens varies by city, and the Los Angeles show saw a mix of established names and new faces take center stage.

Jaida Essence Hall – winner of “Drag Race” Season 12 and recent All-Winner Season 7 contestant – kicked off the show with an energetic dance performance, then took on the role of master of ceremonies to welcome the crowd and put on the show.

Essence Hall convincingly explained that the central set, a grand staircase surrounded by glowing lights, was a time machine meant to take the audience through history. The queens then took the stage one by one, each delivering a lip-synch performance themed around a different time period. Essence Hall served as host for the entire evening, returning between numbers to interact with the crowd and “activate” the time machine.

The queens weren’t alone in delivering a stunning performance. Supported by an ensemble of six dancers as well as a myriad of lighting and visual effects, the queens were able to deliver a big-budget package that exceeded even the scale of the “Drag Race” main stage.

A few queens reached for the skies with their performances – suspended by overhead cables, season eight runner-up Kim Chi flew above the stage dressed as a teabag during a Boston-Tea-themed number -Party and Season 14 winner Willow Pill swings through a cloud of confetti.

Other highlights include Naomi Smalls’ sultry performance of a medley of FKA twig songs in pirate garb, season 10 and 11 contestant Vanessa Vanjie Mateo’s lightning-fast choreography in The Mayan Empire, and the performance wacky prehistoric from Season 11 winner Yvie Oddly.

True to her title as ‘queerdo queer’, Oddly started out in a group of dancers all dressed in frilly, bacterial clothing before dramatically revealing her face, dancing in her signature gymnastic style and finishing the number dressed as a prehistoric rat. … dog… creature . Who cares about taxonomy? Strangely sold with his wild eyes and toothy smile.

The production stumbled towards the end of the first act, when a technical glitch saw season 14 runner-up Bosco introduced for a roaring 20s number, only to have his music cut out within seconds. The disembodied voice of Essence Hall then introduced Season 14 runner-up Daya Betty. , completely moving away from Bosco and leaving the audience confused.

Bosco delivered his performance during the second act, but the annoying hiccups were never acknowledged. To make matters worse, Betty’s post-accident 1980s performance fell flat, showing nothing of the punk-rock side that Betty was known for on the show. Instead, Betty opened the lip-sync to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” a song that was charming at Thursday night’s dive bar karaoke but cheesy on such an extravagant stage.

The show also featured a “lip sync for your life” segment with audience participation, inspired by the show’s staple food elimination challenge. Two members of the public were invited on stage to each perform against Season 14 runner-up Lady Camden. Needless to say, Camden was the one who shone, but every “Drag Race” fan dreams of going head-to-head in legendary lip-sync, so watching two contestants compete added to the show’s friendly and light-hearted atmosphere.

The show was at its best in times like this, when it was candid and genuine. Essence Hall was clearly the star of the evening, more because of its endearing and playful host than its two solo acts. None of the other lineup queens got a chance to speak to the crowd, tinging the show with an element of impersonality.

Therein lies a disappointing – albeit minor – point of “Werq the World”. “Drag Race” fans come to see the queens they fell in love with on screen not only for their talent, but also for their personality.

Guess you can’t expect such a grand tour, with so many stops, to stay completely fresh every night with every queen at 110%. But more interaction between the queens or a less repetitive structure that showcased talent beyond lip-syncing would have breathed more life into the show.

The atmosphere of the show was, unsurprisingly, much calmer and less intimate than typical drag performances in gay clubs and bars. From a visual survey, the audience seemed to be getting older, and the energy in the auditorium was more like that of a theatrical production than a concert. The audience remained seated for the duration of the show, cheering for the stunts and at the end of the numbers, but very few attendees matched the energy of the queens.

The show climaxed with a final number that brought all the queens back onto the stage in matching gold outfits. By showcasing the performers as one ensemble, this joyful finale celebrated the communal aspect of drag art largely absent until that point of the night.

“Werq the World” finally delivered on its promise, offering something for “Drag Race” fans, not just drag fans. By highlighting the talents of the queens in an original and cohesive format and giving their fans the opportunity to see their favorite queens in the flesh, “Werq the World” continues “Drag Race”‘s mission to spread the cruising around the world.

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