Review: The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show at New York's Town Hall
It's the holiday season and the Napoleon of Yuletide, Mariah Carey, is once again annexing speakers across this great land. A Christmas Story is poised to play on a 24-hour loop somewhere on basic cable. And seemingly every repertory theater has dusted off their production of A Christmas Carol. The annual gift basket of holiday hits and reruns is beginning to taste as stale as last year's caramel corn. And you might suspect that The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, now back for its fifth year, has also fallen into that rut. Well, think again.
While drag icons Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme open with the jaunty number "That Kind of Holiday Show" from their 2020 film special, the 2022 edition is decidedly not a feast of nuked leftovers. After quickly establishing their sweet-and-sour banter (Ben loves Christmas and Jinkx would love another martini), they concoct a wild mash-up of A Christmas Carol and Back to the Future that has them traveling back in time to the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s to discover and correct the moment everything went wrong for our world (apparently, the Bush, Obama, and Trump years are blameless — or perhaps just too close for comfort). This is ostensibly to save Christmas, but one suspects it is just an excuse to wear fabulous period costumes (by the Lady Hyde, Mr. Gorgeous, Jamie Von Stratton, and Paris Original).
We see DeLa and Jinkx performing the Ronettes' version of "Sleigh Ride" with the third member of their group, Ding Dong (Ruby Mimosa), tragically lost at sea. We watch Jinkx work through her disbelief in Santa with new lyrics to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" (rewritten here as "I am not five"). And most memorably, we witness a nativity scene set to "Don't Stop Believin'" in which Joseph (Shane Donohue) and Mary (Chloe Albin) look like extras in Jane Fonda's Workout. You'll squeal with delight when the Baby Jesus (Elby Brosch) emerges playing an inflatable pink guitar. Performing the camptastic choreography (collaboratively devised and under the dance direction of Chloe Albin) the ensemble (which also includes Jim Kent and Mr. Babygirl) fouettés through time, donning and doffing outrageous costumes with magnificent gusto.
Vocally, Jinkx sounds better than ever, conjuring the great belters of yesteryear in her performance of "Looking at the Lights," one of the few earnest moments in the show. This is unsurprising from a queen who snatched the crown in the all-winners edition of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars in part due to her memorable portrayal of Judy Garland — but it still made me excited for her impending Broadway debut in Chicago.
DeLa (who has co-written, directed, and produced the show in addition to appearing in it) has once again elevated the drag and cabaret form with a script that sacrifices nothing in terms of lighthearted enjoyment while also cleverly critiquing our cultural decadence. As they travel through time, one song seems to follow Jinkx and DeLa, although with different names: In 1981 it's called "Genius of Love." In 1995 Mariah Carey rechristens it "Fantasy," only for it to reemerge in 2021 as "Big Energy." It's almost as if record executives keep regifting us the same beats, year after year, and we're too drunk to notice. Certainly, the list of the most-streamed songs on Spotify offers damning evidence of a society that sees its best culture in the rearview mirror. Can artists (and the computer programs poised to replace them) really be blamed for giving the people more of what they want? Well, yes.
"Computers can't make art," Jinkx emphatically proclaims late in the show, having viewed the dark Christmas yet to come should we proceed down this path. This is a message that feels especially pertinent when every vain homosexual on earth seems to be posting their AI-generated portraits to social media. While the algorithm seems to promise a utopian synthesis of democracy and individual customization, Jinkx and DeLa know better: Especially when it comes to art, what we really need is a pair of queens.
The New York leg of the tour is over, but you can click here for forthcoming tour stops through the end of the year.