It only feels like a New York minute since drag superstar BenDeLaCreme graced the Manhattan stage for her annual holiday show with fellow Drag Race alum Jinkx Monsoon, The Return of the Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! But that was actually five months ago, so clearly my perception of time has been warped by what BenDeLaCreme refers to as that “global whoops-a-daisy”, otherwise known as the pandemic. In any case, it was good to have DeLa back in the city last week as part of her biggest ever solo tour across the US, UK, and Canada, the much-delayed (due to the whoops-a-daisy) BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to Be Committed, which once again proves what a genius creation BenDeLaCreme is.
As the show opens, DeLa has finally decided to tie the knot and the audience is cordially invited to witness her special day. She hasn’t exactly thought things through. There’s an impressive, towering wedding cake, complete with a talkative Bridezilla figurine, but that’s about it. There’s no dress, and perhaps more importantly, no groom. So DeLa decides to try her luck at finding herself a man to spend the rest of her life with…on Grindr. What could possibly go wrong? She’s later thrown into a Queer Eye style reality show, Say Yeth to the Dreth (a nod to one of the show’s lispy hosts), where a troupe of gays help her to find the white frock of her dreams. And she even receives a visit from Cupid himself, not to mention a dance with a fearsome feline grim reaper. Oh, and there’s a talking Dorito, and a novelty plastic penis cup puppet in there too!
Although BenDeLaCreme—who’s also the show’s writer, director and producer, under her production company, BenDeLaCreme Presents—is alone on stage throughout, by the end of the night it felt like the space had been filled with the various vivid creations of her imagination. Having birthed such a relentlessly optimistic character, DeLa cleverly allows us to see the darker shades of internal despair and questioning that occasional plague her as she sits alone with nothing but a large bag of Doritos and a screeching kitty. Although plenty of humour comes out of those moments, sometimes she allows them to remain poignant without undercutting them. For instance, as she ruminates on that oft-used, but rarely contemplated marital vow that reminds us of our mortality: “Till death do us part”. After all, even the most successful, blissfully happy marriages have to come to an end in tragic loss. BenDeLaCreme skillfully creates an atmosphere as multi-layered as her giant wedding cake, where those deeper thoughts about life and death can sit alongside the outlandish, ridiculous, and the downright filthy. Though DeLa herself of course, is far too innocent to understand the explicit sexual references being thrown at her by a potential Grindr suitor, messaging him back with hilarious responses as his progressively dirtier talk goes over her head. Like when her mind’s on a wedding band, he’s talking about a cock ring. Along the way DeLa delivers one of the funniest and most well-observed acts about gay hookup apps I’ve seen.
Far more than just a drag show about getting hitched and offering a string of wedding jokes, Ready to Be Committed takes the concepts of love and marriage, societal expectations and the pressure that we put on ourselves around relationships, and thoroughly examines them with that unique DeLa spin. She’s a gal who likes to do her research, and it shows, as she takes us on a rollercoaster journey taking in scientific ideas about love throughout the ages and the transactional history of marriage and treatment of young girls as a father’s property to be bartered with. This leads to one of the show’s standout musical numbers, the Beyoncé’s Single Ladies-inspired Medieval Ladies, brilliantly using herself as her own backing dancers on the video screen behind her for an energetic routine, but listen out for those biting lyrics.
Ready to Be Committed ingeniously incorporates video into the show throughout. It’s never there to be merely decorative or distract our eyes during a quick-change, but rather to enhance what’s happening live on stage as DeLa interacts with what’s on screen. One highlight being DeLa’s increasingly fraught conversations with the bitchy wedding cake topper who ends up on a boozy bachelorette party with her friends. Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a drag show without a bachelorette party drunkenly stumbling in at some point, would it?
If you’re looking to see one of your Drag Race favourites in person, with fierce runway struts to the sounds of some of Mama Ru’s greatest hits, DeLa offers that here, cleverly weaving it in as part of the reality show format of Say Yeth To The Dreth. But what you’ll also get is something far more edgy, even avant-garde at times, as BenDeLaCreme effortlessly fuses storytelling, theatre, and cabaret. This is drag as theatre art. It’s thought-provoking, moving, always thrillingly entertaining and a darn good time.
By James Kleinmann
2022 BenDeLaCreme is…READY TO BE COMMITTED tour dates:
5/12 thru 5/15 – Dynasty Typewriter (Los Angeles, CA)
5/17 – The Depot (Salt Lake City, UT)
5/18 – Summit (Denver, CO)
5/20 – Amaturo Theater | Broward Center (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
5/21 – The Plaza Live (Orlando, FL)
5/23 – 9:30 Club (Washington, D.C.)
5/24 – Union Transfer (Philadelphia, PA)
5/26 – Thalia Hall (Chicago, IL)
6/2 – Old Fruitmarket (Glasgow, UK)
6/4 – Northern Stage (Newcastle, UK)
6/5 – Crescent Theatre (Birmingham, UK)
6/7 thru 6/12 – Leicester Square Theatre (London, UK)
6/14 and 6/15 – Home (Manchester, UK)
6/17 and 6/18 – Old Market (Brighton, UK)
7/1 – Aladdin Theatre (Portland, OR)
7/5 thru 7/10 – The Triple Door (Seattle, WA)
7/13 – Vogue Theatre (Vancouver, BC)
7/15 – Phoenix Concert Theatre (Toronto, ON)
7/16 – Rialto Theatre (Montreal, QC)
For more details on the tour and to book tickets head to BenDeLaCreme.com