Drawn That Way is billed as being an open-mic style event with showcases from different guests each performance and centres around the musical stylings of performer and drag queen Bebe Queen and his accompanists, Kenny Hayes and Andrea MacWilliams. Taking inspiration from their real-life experiences with trying to come to terms with their identity as a gay person, the lyrics are often a hilarious reflection on various themes like what it means to come out, the responsibility to support your fellow LGBTQ2 members, and trying to do both of these things while trying to balance your own selfish desires.
Musically, this show is pretty impressive which is in itself a feat, given that it’s always a risk to come to Fringe with a brand new show with originally composed music. I think the last local company to do this really successfully was the team behind the super popular Hootenanny!, and, to their credit, that show set a pretty high bar for companies to come. In any case, Drawn That Way certainly holds its own in this regard and delivers such gems like “Let Me Show You My Dick” and “Not Your Girl”, with their fun and free-spirited melodies. It’s Hayes’ final song, however, that gives this piece its heart. The power-breakup-ballad is one that many people can relate to and it’s difficult not to feel affected by Hayes’ emotionally driven performance of “Future Passed”. It’s a song that you want to blast over some speakers, at home alone, while you ugly cry- and I am here for it.
It’s interesting that Bebe’s opening premise for doing this show is that they got tired of being cast in ensemble roles in various local musical productions, because, for someone who’s looking to own the centre spotlight, they certainly leave the stage quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the guest features at this particular performance (a hilarious millennial themed phone sex ad presented by the Shit Hot Shit Show team and poetry by Adam) were both fitting and lovely additions to the piece, but to some degree it feels as though Bebe is only the host of this event rather than the main event itself which is odd given that it is his face on the poster. The piece starts out rocky with an opening number that is a bit sloppy and chaotic at times and suggests, to me anyway, that the performer isn’t wholly comfortable with the space or perhaps doesn’t have the greatest spatial awareness. They do become more comfortable on stage and with the audience as the show progresses, but they haven’t quite mastered how to own the room the second they walk in which is an integral element in a drag show. However, this can certainly be developed with more experience as a lead character whose major responsibility is to drive forward the overall pace and energy of the production.
Underlying all of the various acts on stage is a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss it plot line concerning the fictional relationship between Bebe and Hayes, that’s carefully constructed by director Victoria Luloff to be subtly reflected in Bebe’s life stories, stage banter, and the lyrics themselves. You’re not supposed to know that Bebe has been talking about their current boyfriend the entire time, until “Future Passed” and with Hayes’ impassioned exit and the abrupt end to the show. This added a nice level of depth to an otherwise casual performance and it definitely has potential to be teased out even further.
Drawn That Way is perfectly suited for the Live! On Elgin venue which is small and intimate, lending itself nicely to the cabaret-style of this performance. I also recommend bringing a few friends along and indulging in the venue’s specialty drink, charmingly dubbed ‘The Critic’, because this show is meant to be enjoyed in the fullest sense.
Drawn That Way
Presented by Petulant Guppy Theatre
BYOV A: Live! On Elgin