By BART GREENBERG****Raja Gemini made her solo cabaret debut in New York on August 25 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, having developed her show Gawdess over the summer at Provincetown. And she was welcomed to the venue with the controlled hysteria usually reserved for icons considerably older and slightly decayed. Preceding her on stage were two video montages: the first consisting of well-wishers (some sincere, some sarcastic) from the world of drag, and the second a history of the diva’s many looks and styles as glamorous model, singer and third season RuPaul’s Drag Race winner.
When she finally reached the stage, all six-foot-plus of fabulouslessness with a headdress endangered by the low ceiling, the audience went crazy. She launched into her first number, “Venus,” during which she changed her costume at least three times. Simply donning a large pair of sunglasses gets a rapturous response. “You are easily impressed,” she observed out of the side of her mouth.
And that’s the key to making this show delightful. Raja kept a careful balance of over-the-top glamour and down-to-earth comments. Staying in P-Town is like “snorkeling through mayonnaise.” She wanted to take the wind machine on tour with her, even though it was nothing more than a small desk fan anchored to the floor of the stage.
During the course of the show, we learned something about her life growing up in the rough part of Los Angeles — when she wasn’t in Indonesia, which inspired her music video “Cholita” that was shown during one of her costume changes. And no drag queen’s show is complete without a feather boa, a disco ball and lip synching to Whitney Houston belting out “I’m Every Woman” while video paid tribute to superstar Divine.
The one thing Raja’s show is not is dull. Go and have a ball, because despite self-confessed nerves, she never missed a beat.
Photos by Mark Wallis
Raja returns to The Laurie Beechman Theatre on September 8. The theatre is located downstairs in the West Bank Café, 407 West 42nd St., NYC. There is a $24 cover charge and a $20 food/beverage minimum per person. Reservations may be made at westbankcafe.com.