LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT & JONNY WOO: A NIGHT AT THE MUSICALS – 90 YEARS OF DRAG! at the Soho Theatre
“Woo transforms Singing in the Rain and Do-Re-Me into absolute filth”
Walking down Shaftsbury Avenue, you have the pick of pretty much any musical you could ever imagine from Les Misérables to Get Up Stand Up, a celebration of Bob Marley’s life and career. However, only a few minutes away at Soho Theatre, you can experience a hilarious medley of the genre’s greatest hits at Le Gateau Chocolat & Jonny Woo: A Night at the Musicals – 90 Years of Drag! A joint birthday extravaganza for ‘The French and Saunders of Drag’, the duo performs some of their favourite showtunes with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original lyrics and increasingly outrageous shenanigans and costumes.
There can be no expectations of how any song will be performed. All that Jazz – the show’s opener – is performed as intended (albeit with large inflatable hands) whilst Memories from Cats is remixed with My Neck, My Back and Eye of the Tiger (two songs about other types of cats). Woo transforms Singing in the Rain and Do-Re-Me into absolute filth whilst Sweet Transvestite has all the pizazz for which The Rocky Horror Picture Show is known. Most songs are sung live though a few are lip synced such as So Long, Farewell from the Sound of Music which is particularly amusing as deep-voiced Chocolat plays young Gretl’s part. Our stars are both given equal chance to shine in solos, but their chemistry is so strong that they are at their best on stage together.
Songs are occasionally introduced with a rambling story which ends with the song’s title which the duo describe as ‘a tenuous link’. Sweet Transvestite is introduced via an emotional tale of an old cross-dresser that Woo once knew whose dresses he has now come to own. Audience participation can be expected too though this is not just limited to singing along – some will be delighted to be part of a brief performance of the Time Warp.
As to be expected, the costumes are fabulous and playful. The audience is treated to seemingly endless costume changes – including a sequined playsuit from Boohoo Luxe – and at the end of one song Woo ends up completely naked.
The set is bare – a banner saying ‘MUSICALS’ hangs at the back and light strips, a disco ball, smoke and fans do the rest. However, our two stars are simply so captivating that it is barely noticeable and the empty stage in fact allows for ample space for them to dance and move around. They do not limit themselves to the stage either, at times changing costumes at the side of the stalls in full view of the audience. Chocolat also performs a delicate rendition of Hopelessly Devoted to You here and is none the less brilliant because of it.
Woo and Chocolat advertise a performance of every single musical hit from the past 90 years, an impossible task. What they do deliver is fantastic, even if there are notable exclusions to the song sheet. Woo and Gateau’s charisma is unmatched, and you will find yourself beaming and wanting to get up on your feet throughout. If you’re a fan of musicals, drag and debauchery, this is the show for you.
“Fans of Miz Cracker will be thrilled with the highly personal nature of Who’s Holiday“
Theatrical reimaginings of some of fiction’s greatest villains from the Wicked Witch of the West to the six wives of Henry VIII have become increasingly popular in the last few decades. So, naturally, why not do the same for Dr. Seuss’ Christmas-stealing Grinch as told by a grown-up Cindy-Lou Who, now a raunchy ex-con who couldn’t be more different than her sweetly hopeful younger self.
Matthew Lombardo’s Who’s Holiday puts a naughty spin on the popular Christmas tale as Cindy-Lou – played by Miz Cracker, a fan favourite from the tenth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race – regales the audience with the story of her tumultuous love affair with the cantankerous old Grinch whilst waiting for her friends to arrive at her holiday party.
The sixty-minute, one-woman show fully embraces the rhyming speech of Dr Seuss’ novels with many hilariously naughty pairings throughout. Directed by Kirk Jameson, Who’s Holiday treats its audience to an intimate chat with Cindy-Lou alongside audience participation and regular movement into the stands which is sure to delight any fan of the talented drag queen.
Miz Cracker does well to hold the audience’s attention throughout the performance and impressively does not err once during the show’s extensive monologue nor a short rap number. She is however at her best when allowed to deviate from the script’s strict rhythm – her little asides to a reluctant participant brought on stage and her witty retorts to overexcited audience members being just some opportunities for her to display her fantastic humour. Brilliantly funny though these moments are, they, unfortunately, also leave the audience wishing that our star was permitted to have some more freedom with the script.
The plot is captivating enough but long sections of speech would perhaps be better received if broken up by other entertainment – it is a shame that there is only one musical number, for instance. Moreover, rather unexpectedly, our (anti)hero’s tale is largely tragic and an audience can expect to go ‘awh’ just as many times as one laughs. The tone is thus slightly confusing and though the play ends on a positive note it is hard to forget the depressing journey it takes to get there.
Successfully lifting the mood throughout however is Justin Williams’ gloriously sparkly set – the interior of Cindy-Lou’s beaten-up old trailer. A real highlight and appropriately festive. The only strange artistic choice is to not have a working door at the back of the stage to allow Miz Cracker to enter her own home – instead she is forced to come from stage left at the play’s opening and do a faux exit at the end.
The lighting (Kieron Johnson) brings a welcomed playfulness to the performance – a wonderful snowing effect in the play’s final scenes is particularly entrancing. The sound design (Mwen) is also strong and situates the audience right in Cindy-Lou’s kitchen from her phone ringing to Whoville locals pelting her door with snowballs.
Fans of Miz Cracker will be thrilled with the highly personal nature of Who’s Holiday and impartial viewers will be easily charmed by the queen’s natural stage presence. The confused and rigid script is however a significant let down and won’t leave most audience members feeling particularly festive at all.