The whirlwind of an accomplished entertainer who goes by the name of Billy L’Amour is more than just a drag entertainer but, rather, L’Amour is a powerhouse triple-threat talent who can deliver the goods – L’Amour can sing, dance and act with the best of them. At the opening of the Rainbow Theatre Project’s season (an incredible LGBTQ arts group so worthy of support!) on Monday, November 30, 2015, L’Amour gave an object lesson in how to enthrall a crowd for one hour via a veritable smorgasbord of performance art. L’Amour crammed in songs, dancing, comedic patter and acerbic social commentary finely-edged with sophisticated and satiric sheen and authentic show –biz brio.
Not since Lily Tomlin’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe have I seen a one –person show that was so creative, cutting-edge and authentically, artistically subversive. L’Amour turns all the clichés and kitschy attitudes inside out and seems to plunge right into a surrealistic universe replete with a vivid imagination that makes the audience unwitting accomplices to the colorful proceedings.
From the moment L’Amour stepped out in a slinky, glitzy, knockout of an outfit (glorious vinyl costumes by Wilber Tellez) singing “Come on a My House” in alternate stanzas of Japanese and English while fanning herself with oversize fans, I could sense that I might be in for something “different.” The word “different” applies here as a compliment for I could see this show appealing to anyone who relishes the unconventional. Indeed, a very affectionate nod to gender fluidity was the essence of this highly – polished show.
L’Amour sang a robust cover of the standard “Luck Be a Lady” and moved like a powerhouse around the stage. L’Amour possesses a background in dance and ballet and, indeed, it showed throughout every number —movements were all tight, defined and highly controlled. This remarkable coordination was a prime asset in seducing the audience through sultry moves removing evening gloves (channeling Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna), sitting with legs splayed (Fosse would have approved) or high – kicking like the wonderful MGM dancer Ann Miller. At times, L’Amour seemed to be an appealing mix of the bawdiness of Bette Midler combined with the sleek sheen of Madonna (perhaps—as well— a little touch of the wonderfully decadent Kiki and Herb duo –known to so many devotees of grungy despair —to accent the more “down and dirty” aspects of the show).
A comic highlight of the show was a savage and witty spoof on media celebrities and perfume that had to be seen to be believed. L’Amour (who has a wonderfully pliable and resonant singing voice) sang a superb version of the jazz classic “Black Coffee” all the while satirizing Lindsay Lohan’s perfume “Lost Dreams” and Jennifer Anniston’s perfume “Pathetic”.
L’Amour trained in Burlesque as well as dance and this showed in the very joyful interactive sexual knowingness and double-entendres that permeated the evening. The lusty “Whatever Lola Wants” was sung with joyful, lusty abandon and the ribald standard “If I Can’t Sell It, I’ll Sit On It” was a huge success. As L’Amour tried to sell the audience her “chair”, the delivery of her lines were zestfully delivered with a knowing wink and superb timing of each phrase.
A mock send –up of Julie Andrews singing “I Could Have Danced All Night” hit just the right note of pompous jesting.
An extended version of Cher’s Famous song “Dark Lady” was sung with panache and style.
An amusing costume change occurred when L’Amour wore a beautifully- tailored spotted and felinelooking ensemble – all the better to don shades and a hood while channeling Lady Gaga (and purring like the divine Eartha Kitt!) and singing a hilarious deadpan version of the hit song “Maneater.”
So often it is so easy to be bitchy and facile in acts such as these but L’Amour has, instead, ingeniously constructed her act in new and surprising ways. Her solid singing and dancing background aided immeasurably to letting the audience peer into the inner core of creative and highly original performance art.
Billy L’Amour is a performance ARTIST of the first order! I will never forget this performance!
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.
Rainbow Theatre Project presents Billy L’Amour/Gentlemen Prefer Billy played on Monday, November 30, 2015 at 7:30 PM and 9:00 PM at Source – 1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For information about the Rainbow Theatre Project’s upcoming season, go to their website.