Review: Hot Mess

The outrageous new Wednesday night drag revue Hot Mess has definitely set a new high bar for drag in NYC. First of all, its the only full-on multi-performer drag revue in a truly gay venue that I can think of in the city. But it’s much more than just that: the queens at the core of this show, Lady Bunny and Bianca Del Rio, are the smartest, wittiest and most fearless in all of drag, and a show that was just them would be legendary in its own right.

But Hot Mess is even more than that. Bunny is the force behind the whole thing, and she has assembled a cast of the city’s most talented drag divas, and the last time she did that, it turned into Wigstock – the annual festival of drag which ran for 20 years. There aren’t as many queens in this but they are truly a choice selection.

Milan, one of the competitors from the last season of RuPaul’s Drag Race acts as the show’s choreographer, and she packs the group numbers with excitement. She’s also a phenomenal dancer herself, serving abundant flash and drama. Jiggly Caliente, also a contestant on this season of Drag Race, is a phenomenally accurate lip syncher and dancer. Skyla Versai specializes in up-tempo stormers from 21st Century pop starlets, and delivers them with infectious high energy. Finally, Sugga Pie Koko brings Andy Kaufman-eque brain-warped comedy to drag, and I feel about her like I did about Andy – she’s often totally annoying, nearly as often brilliant, and never less than compulsively watchable.

On top of all this, you have XL’s crazy sophisticated sound and light system as a backdrop for the ladies. Drag has rarely been this multimedia – and even though it’s truly spectacular, I still think they’ve only scratched the surface of what they can do with it.

Bunny has said of the show, “this is going to be similar to the drag shows I grew up watching down south with production numbers, costumes, choreography, a brilliant emcee (Bianca), some serious dancing, a little celebrity impersonation and of course, lots of laughs!” If that was the plan, she has thoroughly succeeded.

When I saw it on its first night, Hot Mess still had a handful of kinks to work out – it started very late, even for drag time, and the two-hour-plus running time could use some trimming. Even with those problems, Hot Mess is first-class, state-of-the-art New York drag, and not to be missed.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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