January is dull, drab, and depressing, isn’t it? How about bringing the sunshine with a dose of musicals? Performed by drag queens? Topple down to the Soho Theatre and see Le Gateau Chocolat (George Ikediashi) and Jonny Woo (Jonathan Wooster) mutilate the popular genre, in the best way possible.
Preaching very much to the converted, they thrill us with an electric connection and a series of ambitious attempts at classic musical numbers, with limited sets and costumes. Inexplicably turning 40 and 50 respectively, these seasoned veterans of drag take us through the musicals they grew up with. Singing, remixing, lip-syncing and downright botching a range of songs. Think more Sweet Charity than Six, more Cats than Frozen, more… I mean I think you get the point, don’t you? Dated but delightful.
Under a swinging sign saying musicals (apparently needed to remind us at points of plot diversion), the pair dazzle in diabolically bad wigs and an equally unbothered attitude. So, bring along your loyalist West End Wendy, that cousin who is obsessed with Webber, and settle for an evening of belly-clutching laughter and simplistic harmonies. Calling themselves the French and Saunders of drag, the more appropriate analogy voice-wise might be more Sonny and Cher.
Le Gateau Chocolat is Cher, bringing a foundation rocking baritone, and a world-weariness, arch eyebrow flicking that entertains endlessly. Shuffling around as Ariel in her mermaid costume with lacklustre swimming motions is a highlight. Simplicity really is the backbone of comedy. Although when the performer loafs onstage dressed as a lion to The Lion King soundtrack only to burst into a mash-up of ‘Memory’, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘My Neck, My Back (Lick It)’ we are brought to our knees with laughter. Providing the musical chops, even Le Gateau Chocolat isn’t completely safe, as a slower remix of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ is lacking a little in tune or belt.
That would make miss Woo Sonny, and I mean that as a compliment. A facilitator, planner and provider of energy and character. ‘Sweet Transvestite’ is pulled off with a blast, and the antecedent shaggy dog story proffers some of the show’s only soppy moments. Nudity, terrible dad jokes and a spirited lip sync as a stripping Maggie T (less harrowing than you might think) keep the show on track.
The duo are lovable, clearly finding each other hilarious, which helps us also to do so. Playing with the seriousness of the West End, their sojourn in the Soho theatre couldn’t be more perfect. Are they missing a higher harmony for the duets? Yes. Are some jokes lost to giggles? Also, yes. But for a small fraction of the price, you can experience a large fraction of the wonder of London’s Theatreland. After the overindulgence of Christmas doesn’t that seem like a smart economical decision?