I think it’s fair to say that holiday drag shows tend, by nature, to be a maximalist art form. At the top of Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme’s latest extravaganza, All I Want for Christmas is Attention, a video clip is shown of both performers packing a chiseled hunk and a Christmas tree into their respective suitcases, underscored by Mariah Carey, a portent of the excess that’s to come over the course of the duo’s 90-minute show, which does indeed cram a full spectrum of holiday mischief into its modest length. And I mean that in a good way.
Jinkx, the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s fifth season, and BenDeLaCreme, who competed on season six and in its third All Stars season, prove to be a perfect pair in this show’s scripted, faux-off-the-cuff format. All I Want wisely plays up their heterogeneity, pitting Jinkx’s potty-mouthed, sex-fueled excess against DeLa’s kooky put-on Puritanism. It helps that both are experts at the kind of physical comedy Lucille Ball perfected in her heyday. Whether it’s with a snarl of the lip, in Jinkx’s case, or a widening of the eyes, in DeLa’s, each has the ability to make small movements speak volumes for the sake of a gag.
This, combined with witty holiday reworkings of pop hits and some smart writing, makes Jinkx’s and DeLa’s show stand out from the crowd of holiday offerings. Of particular note are “Spoiled” — Jinkx’s take on Lorde’s “Royals,” lamenting her family’s modest holidays of yore — and “Jews” (to the tune of Lizzo’s “Juice,” which is, well, a Hanukkah miracle in and of itself, as led by BenDeLaCreme.
There is a loose through line here. Upon realizing Jinkx’s aversion to holiday tradition, DeLa — with the help of the ghost of her grandmother, as embodied by a talking mug of egg nog (her “Dairy Nogmother,” or “Na-Nog”) — attempts to cajole (or cudgel) her into imbibing the spirit of the season. Fortunately, this framework allows both performers to indulge their respective eccentricities along the way. Jinkx is afforded a moment of Midsommar parody, and DeLa leads “The Nativity Twist,” the perfect embodiment of her Sixties “a-go-go” aesthetic.
Supporting our two congenial hosts are a troupe of capable dancers, who are the butt of numerous jokes along the way as Jinkx pretends not to know why they’re there. There are also prerecorded parody commercial breaks throughout, during which Jinkx and DeLa riff about inappropriate fictional sponsors in a bit of interstitial hilarity.
In its wildest excesses, as during a dance sequence featuring DeLa in a Santa dress and Jinkx dressed as Santa’s sack, the show can occasionally strain the limits of its format by veering from its core strengths. But even then it entertains moment to moment thanks to Jinkx’s and DeLa’s commitment to the absurdity of it all.
Making use of the good will they’ve each earned from fans over the years, both Jinkx and BenDeLa eschew lofty artistic goals for the sake of a good old-fashioned night of comedy and music. Jinkx, whom I’d seen in a solo holiday cabaret in a previous year, seems transformed since that earlier outing; in spite of my admiration for her talent, I had found her unfocused and almost sloppy at the Laurie Beechman Theatre those few years earlier. Not so here, where she seems to have benefited from the structure of All I Want’s balanced format. DeLa, whose Inferno A-Go-Go (also at the Laurie Beechman), was a masterclass in integrating live drag with video and puppetry, appears at ease here, looser and embracing a sense of comedic risk-taking I’ve not seen from her before. Each seems to have found some symbiotic benefit from the partnership that yielded this particular show, in line with the on-stage characters they’ve created for themselves, and it’s a credit to them both that they’re able to be the drag odd couple we need this holiday season.