Although presented as two shows in one night, it would be unfair to review Kevin Wood’s production of The Boys in the Band / The Girls in the Band together as they are such very different shows so, quite unusually, the review also appears in two separate halves.
Act Two – The Girls in the Band
With the interval over, and the transformation complete, the second show in this double bill is a coming-of-age for the drag scene in Brighton. Bursting out from its more usual home in the bars, pubs and club’s of the gay village, it explodes onto the hallowed stage of the Theatre Royal in a fiesta of colours, costumes, songs, dances and simply brilliant comedy.
David Raven– as the legendary Maisie Trollette – is probably the most well respected performer on the circuit and it is “she” who opens the show to rapturous applause from the packed house. Maisie is assisted by Allan Jay and Andrew Simeon, who take on their more usually stage roles as dancers / choreographers.
Director Dave Lynn, the only drag artiste in the show to appear using his full, real, name, is next on stage and “she” shows off the voice that has kept her at the top of her game for almost three decades now. She also has the assistance of the boy dancers who make the most of the opportunity to show off some incredibly high kicks.
A former student of Lynn’s Cabaret Academy, and now a very successful performer on the scene, is Lady La Rue who arrives in the most amazing green sequined frock and ankle length fur coat. After an opening number, to the Muppet’s theme, welcoming us to the “La Rue Show tonight”, the fur coat is replaced by an incredibly exotic boa for her version, with audience participation, of “Patricia the Stripper”.
Rose Garden’s performance is a lot more revealing she is more than happy to dispose of various parts of her incredibly colourful and elaborate costume and headdress while she sings and, following her, Sandra runs through the auditorium to take to the stage, apologising for her lateness by telling everyone that she has been “busy” elsewhere. (Her choice of the exact words would not be appropriate here!)
Sandra leads the audience in her signature tune, Boney M’s “Brown Girl in the Ring” and makes a series of self-deprecating and racially sensitive jokes – not for the PC brigade but all incredibly funny! She leaves the stage only to return immediately, together with all the other drag acts to give us a group performance of “Burlesque”.
After the group number, Lola Lasagne, wearing a dramatic ankle length frock, is accompanied, for her performance of “Nice Men”, by a now half naked Andrew Simeon who shows the audience exactly what a dancer’s body should look like during his energetic routine.
Physical comedy is the forte of Titti La Camp and she soon has the audience in stitches with her tributes to Wicked, Susan Boyle and Bjork before we get the final act of the night, Miss Jason. Her comedy is brilliant and her version of “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music was a surprisingly dramatic and poignant ending to a simply terrific show.