(aka Kevin Levesque)
From Aboard a Recent Brand g Cruise on the Danube
While recently on vacation, not only did we get to see (and I subsequently reviewed) 34 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we also were lucky enough to catch on our nine-day Brand g cruise on the Danube two astounding cabaret shows by Miss Conception, the drag queen persona of Kevin Levesque of Toronto, Canada. With huge followings of fans within the borders of our northern neighbor and in such outposts as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Miss Conception is more unknown in the States but is just the kind of entertainer prime for stages in San Francisco, Palm Springs, New York, Fort Lauderdale, and beyond. Thus, I feel compelled to give a brief impression of how over-whelmed I was by the totally professional, knock-your-socks-off performances by Miss Conception in the two shows we saw.
The Shows Themselves:
With a voice crystal clear that can sustain diva-merited notes seemingly forever, Miss Conception wears a smile that is contagious and totally genuine. She also wears costumes and wigs that are as eye-popping as the eye lashes that almost reach into the first row. When her set opens with “I Will Follow Him” (“wherever he goes”) (from Sister Act), we are ready to follow this queen wherever she takes us next.
And with the swirl of her habit and the quick switch of her wig, Maria from The Sound of Music magically appears before us, tripping across the stage as if it were the meadows surrounded by Alps. With lots of heart and personality-plus, the numbers start to bubble forth from every gay boy’s favorite movie; but when she twists the lyrics of “My Favorite Things” into things like “Grindr and Manhunt” and “men wearing Speedos,” the audience is clearly in the palm of her big, outstretched hands. (They also howl to her continuous stream of one-liners like “I look like a lesbo in the Garden Center of Home Depot” or “Men and me are like pianos ... When they get upright, I feel grand.”)
An evening with Miss Conception is a trip down Broadway Memory Lane. Another quick twirl of her skirts and suddenly she appears in sailor’s dress for a full dancing, twirling, kicking review of Anything Goes numbers. In the next flash, she is all set to sing “I’m Everybody’s Girl” from Steel Pier. Trumpeting with total conviction, she sings, “I’m not the type who’s ready to go steady ... I’m everybody’s girl.” And for sure, we all agree she’s ours.
There is sheer happiness in the way Miss Conception continues to render her and our favorites of all times. Red-haired, red-dressed Annie appears singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” while kicking up her heels and even doing a bit of six-foot-tall ballet. And when she asks the now-adoring crowd to join in “Tomorrow,” who dares to resist?
How many costumes can there be layered underneath? Suddenly, she is in pink glittered skirt with matching pink scarf, ready in her flipped-up blonde hair to jump into the 1950s and Grease. All the flashy dances, hand jiving, and even on-stage somersaults cannot match the exuberance of her singing the hits we all are now dying to hear.
But the mood changes dramatically as she now is in sleek, black dress singing the more contemporary, “Good Riddance” from Green Day’s hit show, An American Idiot. This drag queen knows how not only to tickle every innard but also how to touch her audience to the core. “It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right ... I hope you had the time of your life,” she sings while making eye contact with virtually everyone in the audience (or so it seems).
And of course, a show like this performed by such a bold and beautiful drag performer as Miss Conception can only end with “I Am What I Am” (La Cage aux Folles).
The only way such an evening could be topped would be with a second night down a different road of favorites. This one begins with fifteen of the most astounding minutes I have ever seen in a live cabaret show. Miss Conception trips down the Yellow Brick Road of The Wizard of Oz, bringing us the key songs and characters (Glenda, Wicked Witch, Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and of course Dorothy) in one continuous medley of flowing songs and costume changes right before our eyes. As the layers came off in split second changes, gasps could be heard, followed by roars of audience approval.
This particular set, much like the previous one, brings in hits from a gay boy’s hit list of well-known, well-loved shows – numbers from Chicago, Rocky Horror Show, Rent, and Hello Dolly. But through them all, there is nothing false or flawed with the delivery. This queen can sing and sell her song!
The icing on the cake about Miss Conception is that whoever is lucky to meet her counterpart (i.e., Kevin Levesque) will meet one of the most humble, nicest, most welcoming human beings ever met. And his heart extends off the stage when he is not performing in order to help others in need. He has raised thousands of dollars for People with Aids Foundation and for Friends for Life Bike Rally as well as establish his own charity fund, xthe Miss Conception Resident Charity Fund to assist residents of Toronto’s Fife House in need of medication and a new start in life.
So on the Danube, I was lucky to discover an amazing performer, a generous soul, and someone I hope will be a long-time friend.
For more information about Miss Conception and possible bookings, check her website at http://missconception.ca/.