(l to r) Major Scales and Jinkx Monsoon. (Photo: Jose A. Guzman Colon)
By Matthew Wexler
Drag stardom isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. At least according to RuPaul’s Drag Race season five winner Jinkx Monsoon. The Ginger Snapped, Jinkx’s latest show inspired by her 2018 album of the same name that recently played at Joe’s Pub, enables Jinkx to lower the veil — just a bit — and invite audiences to witness the trials, tribulations and triumphs of life on the drag circuit.
Jinkx is all woman, but her creator, 31-year-old Jerick Hoffer, identifies as gender non-binary*. It’s one of the many fleeting subjects explored that comprise a mostly entertaining cabaret act in need of a director. Dressed in an off-the-shoulder black sequined evening gown, clunky costume jewelry, and a slightly uncoifed Ann-Margret style wig, Jinkx is an amalgamation of pop culture influences ranging from Death Becomes Her to Lucille Ball with a voice that could easily soar on a Broadway stage. That formal theatrical training helps give form to a show that feels, at times, like it’s still in development.
Hoffer has created shows with onstage sparring partner, Major Scales (Richard Andriessen since the pair met while studying theater at Cornish College of the Arts. In this latest venture, Major Scales has a more prominent role as Jinkx’s amateur analyst, helping Jinkx unearth some of her deep insecurities and addictions, but his high camp without context does little to propel the story forward.
There is plenty of fake vodka swigging and pill popping interspersed among the heavily scripted dialogue and original music though Jinkx’s greatest strengths are stories that portray authentic vulnerabilities, such as being misgendered by office staff at a doctor’s appointment or being hit by a car on the streets of Amsterdam after a drunken night out.
The juxtaposition of stage persona and real-life woes can both captivate and distant the audience. Like many touring RuPaul alumni, Jinkx spends an unnecessary amount of time talking about her drag sisters and their various rivalries, devoting an entire tribute song, “Friends,” to those who have gone through the show’s ranks. But her one-liners, both improvised and scripted, land thanks to natural comic timing, as well as affirmations (“There are plenty of people sitting in the shadows with you.”) that speak to her diverse following.
Jinkx also deploys a terrific animated video (directed by Mac Kerman and created by Chaos Emporium Inc.) for “Cartoons and Vodka,” a smartly crafted visual mash-up to celebrate the album’s first single release.
Jinkx will be hitting the road this fall in RWS Entertainment’s first national tour of Xanadu, co-starring Ginger Minj.
“They are both incredible performers in their own right and Xanadu lends itself to featuring their unique personalities while still playing a traditional theatrical role,” says RWS’s chief operating officer, Bruston Manuel, of Minj and Monsoon. “I couldn’t be more excited to bring these pop culture favorites to the tour.”
Upcoming Pride-themed shows at Joe’s Pub include Tori Scott, Matteo Lane and Justin Vivian Bond.
*This review respects Hoffer’s identification as gender non-binary and uses female pronouns only when referring to the character of Jinkx Monsoon.