Drag superstars Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme honed their acts on Seattle stages, and will return with their latest holiday variety special “The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show,” making a tour stop at the Moore Theatre Dec. 21-24.
The holiday show has become an annual tradition for the drag-queen duo, who rose to fame on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which Monsoon won twice. They’ve co-written and performed a holiday show every year since 2018, including a streaming special in lieu of a live performance in 2020. This year, they hurtle back through the decades in an attempt to correct the wrongs of the past and save Christmas.
The show’s Seattle stop comes on the heels of the announcement that Monsoon will make her Broadway debut in January, playing Mama Morton in “Chicago” for an eight-week limited engagement.
The pair’s holiday shows are always about reclaiming a difficult time of the year for the queer community, said BenDeLaCreme. But now, as drag events are increasingly threatened by violence, including last month’s shooting that killed five at a Colorado Springs club, their work takes on added significance.
“Drag is political in nature,” Monsoon said. “I think that’s pretty poignant right now when to even be a drag queen makes you a target for the alt-right and the conservative extremists and the propaganda they’re trying to spew forth.”
We spoke with the queens about their approach to making difficult topics funny and their Seattle roots. Excerpts of the conversation, edited for length and clarity, follow.
How did you decide on the time-travel concept for your show?
DeLa: We always are sort of looking for what’s in the zeitgeist this year in popular culture, and there’s such a huge moment with the multiverse with ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ and ‘Doctor Strange [in the Multiverse of Madness].’ And we’ve also been looking to involve ‘A Christmas Carol’ narrative for a long time. [We] explore the idea of affecting the past, present and future at a time when so many of us are dreading the future and trying to pinpoint the point in the past where our culture went so wrong.
How do you balance unearthing the trauma of the past while making it funny?
Jinkx: I think what we always do to tackle heavy topics in a fun, lighthearted and entertaining way is we take the heavy topic and talk about it in the stupidest way possible. Most of our, like, really complex writing comes out of really stupid ideas. We like to embrace the stupidity and draw out from it what’s brilliant about it.
DeLa: That’s also a big part of the tradition that we come from and that we honor and that we’re proud to be a part of, which is the drag tradition of camp performance. The vaudevillian sensibility. You know, Jinkx went to school for theater, I went to school for fine arts, and a lot of the rhetoric is around, ‘These are lowly art forms. The ivory tower stuff is where the real meaning is.’ I think that what we do is a huge argument for the opposite.
There’s this conception that holiday shows are light and fun, but some of them are so solemn. “A Christmas Carol” is not really a fun show. Your show talks about things that are very serious, but it might be more fun than a lot of typical holiday programming.
DeLa: People feel that they need to make a choice between delving into difficult thoughts around what’s happening or being distracted — this sense of escapism. I think we really do the work to provide both, where you can get away from all of what we’re dealing with for a little while [and] escape into a fun, beautiful fantasy world, but also come to the other end of it, where instead of avoiding these topics, we deal with them straight on and try to lead you to a point of catharsis.
Given both of your deep Seattle roots, what will it be like performing the show here?
DeLa: Neither Jinkx nor I was born and raised in Seattle. Neither of us currently live in Seattle. But still, Seattle is the one city that I have regarded as home, and I still think of it as home. It’s the place where I found my artistic voice, where I found my community, where I found a sense of belonging and where Jinkx and I met. I’ve celebrated Christmas performing in Seattle for 14 years at this point, and that is the longest Christmas tradition I’ve ever had. So it’s special to be able to provide a space for the Seattle community.
Do you have a favorite piece of holiday entertainment?
DeLa: My favorite holiday entertainment is a two-way tie between the ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ Christmas special, which is one of the most incredible hours of television ever produced, and ‘Gremlins,’ which I think is a wonderful subversion of the Christmas movie that makes me feel both festive every year and has almost no sense of saccharine blindness to the difficulties of the time of year.
Jinkx: I’m pretty much your typical ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ fan. But I will say both DeLa and I cameoed in the film ‘Happiest Season’ by Clea DuVall and Mary Holland [and] starring Kristen Stewart, and we really love that movie for being the stereotypical Christmas rom-com that straight people have taken for granted for years and years. And now queer people have their own lovely, heartwarming, Christmas rom-com to watch, [made] by the queer community for the queer community.
Jinkx, how are you feeling about your upcoming Broadway turn in ‘Chicago’ as Mama Morton? The show typically has a role played in drag (Mary Sunshine), but not this role.
Jinkx: I think I have the appropriate amount of nerves and anxiousness, but I’m also deeply excited to see something I’ve been working towards for a long time come to fruition in a way that I had only dreamed of. I’ve been saying basically since anyone started listening to me that I’ve always wanted to be on Broadway and specifically, I’ve always wanted to play a cis female character. I’ve always wanted to be given the chance to show that gender-blind casting is absolutely valid and that we should be casting people based on who’s right for the role.
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