Super-excited to get to talk with Montreal’s oh so fabulous Billy L’Amour, whose career spans ballet, cabaret, and burlesque and is bringing her one-woman show Gentlemen Prefer Billy to the Source Theatre for two shows on November 30th as the season opener for Rainbow Theatre Project’s 2015-2016 season.
Lucrezia: Your show in DC on the 30th is sort of a homecoming, yeah?
Billy: Yes it is! I lived in Washington, DC from 2008 to 2010 during which time I danced for the contemporary dance company CityDance Ensemble. Being in Washington was a wonderful renaissance for me because the city is so vibrant and rich culturally and historically. Plus there are a lot of people in Washington, DC that I’m very close with and have collaborated with over the years so I’m so thrilled to be coming back to share my voluptuous body of work with all my little loves.
And from DC you moved to Montreal?
Yes. I return to Montreal in 2010 to dance with La La La Human Steps. I rejoined that company for their final creation
You were also a dancer for … Les Ballets Grandiva …
Yes my first time performing in drag was actually not in a club but onstage with the ballet company! I joined that company when I was only 17 years old which was not unusual at the time. We toured Japan for four months straight every summer and performed parities of all the classic ballet’s. We were treated like rock stars by the Japanese. It was a crazy experience for a little 17-year-old “Ballerina.”
All of which obviously leads to a life of cabaret and burlesque …
I started doing burlesque because the drag queens in Montreal didn’t want to hire me so I went looking elsewhere for opportunities to perform. That’s when the burlesque community welcomed me with open feather boa holding arms. I adore the burlesque community! Burlesquers are like drag queens but with better costumes and no bitchy attitude.
Yeah, it’s a very inclusive community. I think ’cause (neo) burlesque is relatively new. We’re all making it up as we go.
Plus it has been a great environment for me to try new things in stage that I couldn’t do in the drag bars. I’m not interested in doing Britney, Beyoncé or Rhianna. Plus I always sing live. I have had many people tell me that I am not a drag queen because of that element in my shows.
How would you describe your style of drag?
Billy L’Amour is the Nuevo-Vamp! Vintage Hollywood femme fatale meets singing dancing diva from another space and time.
One last drag question and we’ll move on – what do you think the state of the drag nation is? I appreciate the acceptance and commercialability that Drag Race has brought to the world, at the same time I feel like it rewards bad behavior. It has a certain Kardashian feel to me, just replace family wealth with drag.
From a social point of view I am thrilled to see drag getting her big break in pop culture. I love that drag subverts the masculine and celebrates the feminine. We live in this absurd patriarchal system that tells us that the masculine is superior and that femininity is a sin when all the evidence is telling us something else. Drag gets that and drag mocks that. That’s why drag can be so polarizing for people. Goddess power now! But… the culture we live at this moment in time has gone to the Kardashian level. It’s not just drag, it’s the music, film and entertainment industries. Everything is profoundly superficial these days. Socially the drag explosion is wonderful but it has exploded into a culture that treats the art form with light brush strokes.
You just finished two huge shows, yeah?
Yes, it’s been a busy year for me! Hysteria Escape The Chains of Sanity is a multimedia immersive theatrical experience that we just premiered to sold out audiences. Gentlemen Prefer Billy is my one woman show that I am bringing to the Source Theatre on November 30 for the Rainbow Theatre Project’s season opener.
Gentlemen Prefer Billy is a campy and dazzling song and dance review I will be telling stories of my global She-nanigans set to pop songs rearranged in the jazz style à la Postmodern Jukebox. For example, the 80s pop hit Maneater by Hall & Oates transformed into a torch song and sung in the first person. Hilarious! I have been developing this show with the extraordinarily talented John Gilbert who was the musical director for Chicago. And as usual there will be lots of singing, dancing, laughs, sass and fabulous costumes by my designer Wilber Tellez. And yes these fabulous costumes will be coming on and off through out the evening.
You beat me to the punch – was going to ask what can we expect on the 30th. So instead …what’s your ultimate career fantasy?
To continue to perform original shows to sold out audiences so come see Gentlemen Prefer Billy on November 30th!
Rainbow Theatre Project presents Billy L’Amour/Gentlemen Prefer Billy plays this Monday, November 30, 2015 at 7:30 (sold out!) and 9:00 PM (better hurry and get your tickets now) at Source – 1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets for the 9:00 PM show can be purchased online for $25.