If RuPaul's been trying to make us buy one thing for the past 8 seasons of Drag Race (other than her fragrance, chocolate, makeup, albums, and anything else she can hot glue her name to) it's that drag is a celebration of identity, and the journey to find and love ourselves. And of the 100 queens who've walked the walk down the famous runway, few have talked the talk better than Latrice Royale, who recently wrapped a weekend of sold out performances at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City.
"Here's to Life," Latrice's musical journey through her past, isn't like most one-woman drag shows you've seen. Sure, it features an outsize personality, laughs, songs, sass, and feathers to the extreme ("there aren't any ostriches left," she laments, draping her miles of feather-rimmed robe over a chair), but there's a sincerity and maturity that's often lacking at this type of performance. Where other queens may rely on forced innuendo and scads of splits to steal a response from their audiences, Latrice can command attention just sitting in a chair. And it's not that she can't deathdrop with the best of them (in fact, hers are more impressive than most), it's that she doesn't need to.
Despite her booming laugh and dazzling accoutrements, Latrice Royale exudes an inner peace and self-awareness that surrender you instantly to her authority. Her tale begins in Compton, treads through homophobia, violence, and family tumult, and encounters prison, death, and regret before finding stability and acceptance, but the end result is triumphant and glorious in ways only drag can express. You may not even realize how apropos her opening song choice (Chicago's "When Your Good to Mama") is until after the show when you realize you've replaced Mama Ru with Mama Latrice, but you'll leave the theater ready to tackle your life, and sure that you can.
You will cry at times, and you'll reconsider your idea of who you are before the show is through, but "Here's to Life" is above all a celebration, and it's a party you want to attend. Its message is simple: Life puts you where you need to be in order to grow and learn, and you need to listen along the way. Latrice returns to the Laurie Beechman Theatre May 12-15th, and you can find the rest of her touring schedule at LatriceRoyale.com. You can also snag her jazz album, also titled Here's to Life and featuring music from the show, on Amazon now.