Alyssa – Memoirs of a Queen. The Vaudeville Theatre, the Strand, London to 12 June 2021. 2**. William Russell.

Delirious with delight from the start, braying and cackling, the audience had a whale of an evening at this tedious drag show starring Alyssa, otherwise Alyssay, otherwise Justin Johnson, made her name on the Ru Paul Drag Race. The trouble is – good legs apart, Justin can dance – Alyssa has little comic timing and her scripted memoirs are really not worth listening to when one could make out what she was saying as the theatre sound system was abysmal. Not that the audience seemed to mind. The whoops came regardless. Nor was the drag particularly dazzling, unlike the things sported on Ru Paul’s shows. Her costumes are dull, and discreetly draped with feathers and fringes to conceal the Lady Jane effects, while her immense wig is an atrocity, old gold at the front and dingy brown behind. What is really sad is that this West End week in the lovely Vaudeville should be wasted on this awful show.
Drag is a great British institution – the list of legendary performers is endless, and to none of them can this dance studio owner from Texas hold a candle. Oh Danny, Stanley, Dockyard Doris, Hilda and Evadne, Shufflewick and Lily Savage to name but a few that your art should come to this.
All praise to Nica Burns who has given lots of fringe acts and shows a break in the West End in this sudden freedom from pandemic closure but why chose this one, except the fact the first night sold out on the strength of the TV show and a Netflix documentary is arguably one explanation. Bums on seats are what matter.
Justin is supported by four energetic dancers and the end of the first half – it runs for over two hours – leads them in a briskly choreographed routine worth applauding. But as for the rest, this is probably the worst drag show I have ever seen whatever the cacklers and brayers in the house might think. They need to get out more.

Alyssa: Justin Johnson.
Dancers: Billy Sawyer, Alex Brown, Luke Vella, Austyn Farrell.
Director: Spencer Noll.
Writer: Brad Loekle.
Choreographer:Justin Johnson.
Lighting: Gillian Tan.
Designer: Lilly Todd.

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