Jinkx Monsoon makes the Orpheum Theatre’s crowd swoon

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      Jinkx Monsoon is one of the most famous drag queens in the world. And at last night’s show at the Orpheum Theatre, she proved why she deserves that mantle.

      After shooting to fame by winning Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she strung together an endless number of projects—a documentary, a comedy special, annual festive tours with her comedy partner BenDeLaCreme—before going back to do it all again: winning Drag Race’s All-Winners spin-off. As the only queen from the globe-spanning franchise to snatch the crown twice, Jinkx has since starred in a record-breaking run as Mama Morton in Broadway’s Chicago, booked a guest-star spot on Doctor Who, and appeared in media across the U.S. to discuss so-called drag bans.

      Now she’s embarking on Everything at Stake, an 18-plus 44-stop tour across North America, combining her musical chops with comedy, political commentary, and just a little sprinkle of kitschy magic. Joined onstage by a four-person band, plus pianist, musical director and banter-partner Major Scales, Jinkx seems like she comes alive in front of a live audience.

      As the second stop on her months-long tour, the Orpheum felt like a natural fit. The eye-wateringly thick smoke billowing through the theatre made the whole place feel straight out of a noir film. When Jinkx entered, in a white tunic evoking Greek antiquity and preparing to be burned at the stake, it felt like a ritual that’s come untethered from time. Then, her cell phone rang—and she revealed into a saucepot slit-up-the-thigh satin gown to sultrily slink around the stage, bopping between a velvet recliner, a piano-side stool, and standing centre-stage behind a microphone. 

      Over the course of nearly two hours, Jinkx moved effortlessly through different parts of her multifaceted drag persona. In her first Drag Race season, at 23 years old, she billed herself as “Seattle’s premier narcoleptic Jewish drag queen”; now, a decade on, she plays up the concept of horny MILF cougar while also being a proud microdoser, practicing witch, recovering alcoholic, and vaudeville-inspired warbler.

      She murmured her way through “Jinkxie” (spelling?), a Chicago-style pastiche of “Roxie”; she channeled the spirit of Judy Garland for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”; she sang deep cuts from her albums, and also performed an incredibly silly cover of Katy Perry’s nonsensical pop crime, “Swish Swish”. It’s a weird pick, but a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact it was the finale lip sync on All-Winners in which runner-up Monet X Change demolished her. 

      Everything at Stake is littered with inside-baseball references like this, assuming everyone in the audience has watched the TV show that made her famous. (When she asked who in the crowd is straight, there’s almost no noise.) And it worked—mostly—because we have: the assembled paying masses are who’s-who of Vancouver’s queers, stoners and Wiccans, and people who looked like they experimented with those in college.

      The show was hampered with minor technical difficulties—a mis-timed video screen, a disconnected in-ear monitor, sound mixing that sometimes obscured the vocals. But I’m a sucker for live theatre. And, soon enough, Jinkx will have this show purring like a well-oiled machine: here, with 42 more shows still ahead of her, we get to see those peeks behind the curtain. She’s a performer, but she’s also on stage laughing it up with her friends. The show has a decent slice of fourth wall-breaking meta-story, as its plot follows Jinkx planning for her tour; what’s a little extra nudge to the audience?

      In pre-tour press, Jinkx said this show was a response to anti-LGBTQ witch hunts in the U.S. In Vancouver, where—for the most part—we have it pretty good, the jokes got roars and titters. But they’ll surely hit differently in the States, especially places where gender-affirming care has been restricted, queer books have been banned from schools, and drag bans have been legislated.

      As a non-binary transfemme who is usually perceived as a woman out of drag, Jinkx’s perspective remains rarely heard on a large scale. She had comedy bits about the trauma of “genital anomalies” at airport scanners, the dilemma of gendered bathrooms, the femme-affirmingness of being a slut. And—as she pointed out—the people trying to repress the LGBTQ2S+ community have remained the same, repeating decades and centuries of discrimination that gets undone as society progresses.

      Jinkx referenced the queer and trans pioneers of Weimar, Germany a couple of times on stage—first as a toast for her non-alcoholic shot, throughout the show in her cabaret stylings, and later in more detail. Those Berlin bohemians were silenced by the radical conservatives of their times, she reminds us—calling them “conservatives” rather than “Nazis” must be a deliberate choice. Not even burning books and concentration camps could eradicate the queer community. So when Jinkx rounded out the night with “The Lavender Song”, a 1920 tune that’s considered the first gay anthem, it’s a poignant choice. She said it’s one people need to hear now, and she’s right. 

      You can hunt the witches, but the community will only come back stronger. Everything is at stake right now—and Jinkx is here to fight the hate, one held-note dick joke at a time.