Context matters. Where you are when you see a thing changes how you react to it.
We know this, because you’re probably not going to react to seeing Beyonce in concert the same way as you would if you ran into her doing a normal human being thing like getting her own coffee. A banana taped to the wall is a handy snack in your kitchen, a political statement that you can’t quite unravel on the outside of Parliament, and conceptual art in the Guggenheim.
And yet, somehow, some of the audience members who came to see The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show at the Orpheum failed to grasp the difference between a whole-ass theatre and a gay club.
As co-star, co-writer, and director BenDeLaCreme noted the first time a heckler shouted loud enough to be heard on stage, with the kind of sharp wit that’s been honed from decades in the business: this is a scripted production, and the audience has no lines.
But that didn’t stop them from trying!
During the emotional climax of the show, someone shouted, “I love you, Trixie Mattel!” There was a ripple of nervous laughter, but we all knew some line had been crossed.
DeLa and co-star Jinkx Monsoon delivered a short but snappy rebuke, and elicited a huge wave of cheers as the audience affirmed that yes, we did want to see the performers on stage rather than a random loudmouth. Then the pair exited stage right, promising to finish the show once the heckler was gone.
House lights came up, and security emerged from the shadows.
The show resumed maybe a minute or two later, but it was a truly bizarre experience: the sense that the fragile, beautiful magic of theatre had been deliberately shattered. You can put it back together, but everyone remembers the dissonance of the smash. Unless, of course, the final two numbers of the show manage to be so sweet that they overshadow even this keyfabe intrusion.
Which is all to say: The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show wasn’t a run-of-the-mill drag show.
Created by and starring Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme, the production was an immense musical. There were dancers, costume changes, original songs, parodies, and full-blown choreography, all following the central duo as they journeyed through some Christmas-y conceit like they had done for the last six or so years, telling original holiday stories with a vaudeville edge and plenty of humour both high-brow and low. The only thing missing from a full-on pantomime production was an unwieldy plywood set.
This time, the premise was that Jinkx and DeLa ran out of holiday show ideas and were planning on taking a year off. But the hotel they checked into wouldn’t let them leave: they became trapped, with an ominous cocoa-themed spin on “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” keeping them entangled in the concept of the holiday show itself (and Jinkx showing off her incredible range with only a couple of falsetto lines).
The show was the thing they were performing, and also a character, and also their child. It was pretty meta, but it served as a commentary on the importance of traditions—and remembering why things you love became important to you in the first place.
It was also delightfully silly.
Jinkx sang a horny seduction song to “Krampus Daddy” that ended in a simulated blowjob. DeLa riffed on the catchiness of carols with a Virgin Mary-coded parody of “Padam Padam”. It was satirical, but earnest. Everything was so full of heart, and the audience cheered for every pithy line or held note—of which there were plenty, as the virtuoso performers truly demonstrated the talents that have kept them enjoying this level of theatrical success for a solid half-decade.
After the chaos of the interruption, the show ended with an appropriately all-singing, all-dancing spectacular. But that didn’t stop one man doggedly approaching the stage, dollar bill in his outstretched hand, apparently trying to tip the goddamn performers who were busy executing their showstopper. My man, you don’t tip the actors; you buy their merch and tip whoever is working the stand.
Security, once again, had to emerge to sort it out.
Leaving the venue made me wonder if every show on their tour had been like this, or whether the Vancouver audience had somehow lost their minds in a truly unique manner in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve; these few unruly troublemakers were too sloshed on spiked eggnog and Northern Lights gummies to understand how to be a respectful human being in a theatrical audience, nearly ruining it for the rest of us.
The artistry, magic, and joy of The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show makes it a misfit tradition for a reason. Let’s hope they see fit to return, regardless of… whatever the hell that was.