22nd Oct2021

‘Karaoke Club: Drag Edition’ Review

by Rhys Payne

I don’t know which producer at ITV thought that it would be a good idea to greenlight a karaoke TV show, filled with drag performers and allow them totally free access to a fully stocked bar… But I am so glad they did!

Karaoke will always hold a special place in my heart as one of my most cherished memories of pride was watching an (extremely drunk) man get up on the stage and perform one of my all-time favourite songs “Proud Mary” by the incredible Tina Turner! Now he wasn’t the best singer or dancer but still managed to get every person on their feet dancing around the karaoke area of the event. No one in the crowd was worried about what they looked like while dancing or how their singing sounded but instead focussed on simply having an amazing time! Being in this moment felt euphoric and was the main reason as to why I spent many an evening at the local gay bars singing camp classics at the top of my lungs! In fact, it was at one of these LGBT+ venues during a karaoke night where I met the eccentric John Barrowman, H from steps and Matt Evers. The group I was with blended with the group of celebs and we managed to somehow ended up in the never seen before VIP section in Live Lounge after the karaoke club had closed! Usually In these bars, however, it is the drag performers usually just hosting the evening and will only do the odd song if no one is joining in so I was super excited to see drag performers sing karaoke!

In its most simple form “Karaoke Club: Drag Edition” is a karaoke competition show where the queens are locked into a wonderfully decorated flat and let loose on both the stage and the open bar. At the end of each episode, two queens are selected by their peers to fight not to go home with the loser being replaced by someone new in the next episode. There is also a winner of each episode which was purely for bragging rights as they did not gain any advantage for being the best in the episode! Just like my pride experience, this show was not about being a talented vocalist (with most of the trained singers not doing very well) but instead about embodying the song and giving a performance. Despite how limited their singing talents were, every performer seemed to be having an incredible time so much so that I wished to be in that room. Can you imagine being in a room of drag performers with a free bar … sounds like a dream come true if you ask me! The performers are encouraged to use a selection of costumes and props provided by ITV which was a nice touch but at times the songs did become very chaotic due to the number of props being used.

Since winning the very first season of Drag Race UK (which we are now on season 3, which we do weekly reviews on!) The Vivienne has been relatively quiet with the web series she won from the show receiving mixed reviews from the critics. I do know that she had released a cover of the song “you spin me right round” which did fairly well in the charts so that I know she has some vocal abilities. She started the show with the iconic Cher impression during a performance of “If I Could Turn Back Time” which is another one of my personal favourites! However, her highlight performance in this show occurred during the final episode of this series where she performed an incredible rendition of “I would do anything for love” which even had most of the guests in awe! Like I said earlier, karaoke is not always about being the best singer with no one embodying that more than the co-winner of all-stars 4 Trinity the Tuck. She has clearly not been blessed with the best vocal ability as the majority of her number focuses mostly on the entertainment value rather than vocals. Her rendition of “It’s not right, but it’s okay” being a particularly difficult performance to witness but she does get bonus points off me for doing proud Mary in the finale (despite how bad she sounded!) SPOILER ALERT – like I discussed earlier karaoke is clearly not just about singing ability as Trinity and The Vivienne ended up in the final battle for the award of best drag karaoke performer with Trinity actually taking home the prize! I don’t totally agree with the fact that Trinity walked about with the overall win of the season as she was entertaining but there were much better performers!)

In my opinion, the crown should have instead gone to Danny Beard who appeared in the show towards the end of the season. For those who are not aware of Danny, they are probably most well known for performing sweet transvestite on Britain’s got talent a few years ago. Danny is an incredible singer but also knows how to command every inch of the stage and to me, their performance was a lot better than the season winner! Now from someone who should have won to someone who was again there for entertainment .. drag race US legend Manila Luson! I thought that Manila looked incredible in the opening episode of this season where she wore a stunning blue dress that has a microphone wire wrapped around her that spelt the word “sung.” Manila is also known for not being the best singer but her performance alongside Crystal (from Drag Race UK season one) of like a virgin was particularly difficult to listen to! Despite how bad this performance was, I was very excited to see Crystal back on tv as I don’t think she got a fair showing on drag race and on the spin-off season “God Shave the Queens” showed how much of a crazy and mesmerising performer she really is! Her rendition of “Call me” in the episode being ridiculously fun to watch! I thought that Crystal went home way too early on both drag race and Karaoke club but I’m glad we have another opportunity to see some of her skills.

Throughout the season we saw many drag kings and queens enter the show including Cara Mel (who appeared on the comedy show Rob and Romesh during the drag episode), Vinegar Strokes (who is a renowned west end performer) and Ginzilla (whose performance of my heart will go on was hilarious and brilliantly performed) as well as drag king Lil test ease. We also had some guest cameos throughout the season including Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Nadine from Girls Aloud and Ashley from Pussycat Dolls and Kerry Katona as well as Courtney Act who randomly had a vote to nominate the best/worst performers. The entire season was narrated by the wonderful Layton Williams (who I have also met) and is most known for his role in Bad Education alongside Jack Whitehall or his multiple high profile roles in musicals such as hairspray, everyone’s talking about Jaime and Rent!

Overall this was an extremely flamboyant and entertaining show that celebrated the art form of karaoke. Any drama or conversations in this show seemed to be extremely natural and relaxed (unlike Drag Race) and we saw a group of people whose job in a nightclub is to get the party started just simply have fun! There is a lot of alcohol usage and strong language which does mean that it is meant for a more mature audience.

****½  4.5/5

If you like to see half-cut drag performers covering some of the most iconic songs known to man (or women) then this is the show for you!

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