This review of Latrice Royale's Here's To Life at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Latrice Royale: Here's To Life
Written & Performed by Latrice Royale (Timothy K. Wilcots)
Directed by Braden Chapman (a/k/a Mimi Imfurst)
Musical Director: Christopher Hamblin
Bass: Leif Lewis
Drums: Arthur Vent
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Latrice Royale is big, black, bold and beautiful! She is a powerhouse performer who will impress you with her deep voice (think Barry White in drag - "it's all about that bass!") and impressively designed chocolate bejeweled gowns and outfits. Born Timothy K. Wilcots in Compton, California, he was the youngest of five boys who lived with their mom in a government supplied single family home. His mother worked three jobs and "although they didn't have all the things they wanted, they always had the things they needed." Timothy K. Wilcots was tormented and bullied by an older homophobic brother nine years his senior (who told him "I don't want a fag for a brother. I will kill you if I find out you're a fag!"). To escape the beatings and the violence, at age 18, he left his home and bought a one-way ticket to Eau Claire, Wisconsin (a place known for snow, cows & cheese) to work with the Color Guard. Not exactly "Straight" Outta Compton (the movie of the same name that starred his entire neighborhood), Timothy K. Wilcots was finally free to be himself.
The lily-white, Midwestern clientele of Scooters, the only gay bar in Eau Claire, convinced Timothy K. Wilcots to wait until he became "a Miami bitch" before fully coming out. After all, he was "the only piece of chocolate in the place." However, he did dress in drag for Halloween and started dressing up as Wanda from In Living Color to amuse both himself and his friends. He tried dressing in drag in Miami during an amateur competition but they sent her home "with a fashion citation and a few drink tickets." Determined not to be rejected again, the newly minted Latrice Royale won the next drag competition she entered. She was now a Color Guard Professional during the day and a popular Drag Queen at night. Latrice tried ecstasy and before long she was taking up to 13 pills a night, in addition to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. She explains in detail how she was busted, blew off the meetings of a program that would have enabled her to avoid prison and have her arrest record expunged, how she technically violated the terms of her probation, and ultimately, how she went on the lam for five years until she was arrested in Indiana and extradited to Broward County, Florida, where, after hearing from character witnesses, she was sentenced to only 18 months in prison. During this time, her mother died and she committed herself to turning her life around. Latrice says that by sentencing her to prison, Judy Justice saved her that day. She decided to embrace the future and made the decision that "As long as I am in the game, I want to play."
Recognizing that Drag Performing on stage was her passion, she tried out for RuPaul's Drag Race Season 4, was accepted, and competed against twelve other queens. Latrice made it into the top four but was eliminated. During the Season 4 finale, it was announced Royale would appear on RuPaul's Drag U. Also during the finale, she was crowned Miss Congeniality by the voters. Latrice Royale went on tour across the United States and was later given the opportunity to appear on RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars. In January 2014, Royale released her single "Weight" and in September 2014, she introduced and then performed with Jennifer Hudson at the CBS Fashion Rocks charity fundraiser event. Now at The Laurie Beechman Theatre playing to sold-out crowds with additional dates already having been added for May, Latrice Royale is bringing her moving and inspirational life-story to New York City, where she urges everyone to learn from the lessons life reveals to you, to be on point, and to sell something, even if it ends up being yourself as a brand.
Latrice Royale admitted, "I need all my energy because this bitch is getting old!". But she absolutely gave her all to every song she sang from "When You're Good To Mama" from Chicago ("Let's all stroke together. Like the Princeton Crew.") to "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Keep Sittin' On It" by Ruth Brown. When a Drag Queen has talent, I usually don't see the need for her to lip-sync. However, Latrice Royale took the song "Encourage Yourself" and turned it into an anthem for all those who want to make their future circumstances better, especially if you're a person who's "got a little sugar in his tank - sweet as can be!" While the constantly running instrumental background music during Latrice Royale's monologues became especially distracting once you noticed it, the good news is that most of the audience members were so drawn into the stories of her life that it didn't seem to matter. However, I highly recommend the instrumental music be toned down during future shows. Give it a break and let Latrice be free to capture the audience on the strength of her own truth.
The show ends with a message of hope that it is never too late. Last Christmas Eve, she received a call from her abusive, bullying brother who said he would like to begin to repair their broken relationship. As long as you are alive, there are possibilities! Before leaving the stage, Latrice Royale said, "I hope you enjoyed the show. I hope you are inspired to be the best you can be. If you don't like something about yourself, then go change it Bitch! I love you and there ain't nothing you can do about it, but smile!"
I strongly recommend you see Latrice Royale: Here's To Life when it comes back to The Laurie Beechman Theatre May 12-15, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $22.00, with a $20.00 food/drink minimum. This is a show you do not want to miss! Every cabaret performer should catch this show to see what is possible and to get beyond the old stale, superficial twelve-song, light-patter format prevalent in most cabaret rooms today. Latrice Royale is a gem shining bright and welcoming you into the warmth of her bosom. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or go to www.SpinCycleNYC.com For more information about Latrice Royale, visit her website at http://latriceroyale.com/