It’s November, which means Homotopia is here – and for the first time, the LGBT+ arts festival is bringing a RuPaul’s Drag Race winner to Liverpool.
We’re talking season five’s Jinkx Monsoon, an incredible singer and comic performer from Seattle, whose seasoned double-act The Vaudevillians is booked for two sold-out shows at the Unity Theatre this Friday (November 3).
Jinkx has been performing with partner-in-musical-crime Major Scales for nearly a decade, with their cabaret-style take on modern pop songs with a comedy twist.
After the considerable profile-raising that came with winning Drag Race in 2013, Jinkx – real name Jerick Hoffer * – never forgot the potential of their act and made sure old pal Richard Andreissen (Scales) was along for the ride.
“The Vaudevillians started while we were in college as an act we came up with to play in a variety show,” Jinkx explains. “We knew we wanted to do ragtime versions of pop songs, in character.
“Drag Race changed everything for me – and after I won I played the post-Drag Race game and spent a year on the road, performing in clubs and doing solo work, but told Major Scales that as soon as I could I’d be back to get The Vaudevillians picked up somewhere.”
The act began as ad-libbed cabaret dinner theatre in Seattle, where the pair played a second set of characters, Kitty Witless and Dr Dan von Dandy (got that?). It eventually secured a successful off-Broadway run and became a cult favourite.
Jinkx laughs: “It’s very meta and convoluted in that Richard and Jerrick have to get into the characters of Jinkx and Major Scales to get to Dan and Kitty – it’s much more commedia dell’arte, the classic clown form, putting on personas and giving them a life in the time of the show.”
And if that sounds like more than you’d expect from someone who does drag for a living, then you really haven’t been paying attention.
“I feel what I do now is part of a new aspect for Drag Race girls, it doesn’t mean clubs are all we do,” they say. “What I love is now Drag Race winners go on to do a huge variety of things and don’t stick to the normal drag queen rigmarole. Bianca Del Rio is a stand up, Violet Chachki does burlesque; I’m a cabaret star, Alaska is a proper pop star and Adore is a rock star; and it’s kind of like Drag Race has put us on the way to careers that used to be a long shot.”
And as RuPaul’s show continues to take over the globe, the fame provides opportunities on the international circuit. Jinkx performs in the UK several times a year in tours with other Drag Race contestants, like Battle of the Seasons and the recent Heels of Hell; but as a theatre queen at heart, they have also devised stage shows including comic parodies Return to Grey Gardens and Hocum Pokem with collaborator Peaches Christ. They are about to release their second album of original music, The Ginger Snapped.
The Soho Theatre in London had a run of The Vaudevillians last year, and it is now on an arts centre tour around the UK.
“I’m very excited because we have worked in London and Manchester a lot, but I haven’t really got to explore much of the surrounding cities,” they say. “So it’s really exciting to get a show I’ve created and am really passionate about to so many new places. I absolutely adore the UK audiences and we fine-tune the show to the city we’re in and try to include local humour.”
Jinkx and Major Scales have written a sequel to The Vaudevillians and have considered retiring the original show, but found the demand was still there and they were happy to continue touring in any new city that wanted them. The show is, Jinkx says, “kind of like a greatest hits – an introduction to who we are as weird artists, a chance to show our brand of humour”.
“In a place like Liverpool where we’ve never performed before, the audience is really excited to have us there and it’s really easy to do two shows in a place where there is a new vibe and energy. By the time we’re finishing our first show I’ll be really excited to reset and do it all again.
“For us, it’s really surreal to have an audience for these silly characters at all.”
*Out of drag, Hoffer identifies as transgendered, and prefers to use the pronoun ‘they’ rather than he or she.