The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.
Monét X Change would like to sing you a song—but first she has a few things to explain. First, she identifies the song, Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's "Lost in the Stars" from their 1949 Broadway musical of the same name. Then, she explains what the song is about: An earth-shattering crisis of faith and moment of decision. But then, she explains why she's singing the song. That has a much more complex and drawn-out answer.
That is the genius framing device of X Change's new solo show, performed as a series of detours from the "Lost in the Stars" piano intro. This is the RuPaul's Drag Race winner's Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut. X Change is known for her comedy and fierce lip sync skills, but she gets surprisingly vulnerable in Life Be Lifein'.
Over 60 minutes, X Change takes you through her artistic background. But explaining the importance of opera and drag in her life involves all sorts of personal stories, from growing up gay in Brooklyn and having a secret 7th grade tryst with the resident bad boy, to a confusing time studying vocal performance at New Jersey's Westminster Choir College. The drag star had to endure lots of things going unsaid for much of her life, leading to murky territory—like having a supportive family that never acknowledges their church's homophobia, or a college voice professor who never seems to have much to critique even when X Change comes in to lessons a hot mess.
But Life Be Lifein' is a story of clearing out the muck and finding your voice. For X Change, that came as a revelation at—where else?—a college karaoke bar. After more than a few vodka cranberries, X Change signed up to sing, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (in the original key, no less). Something was unlocked. She brought the house down and instantly became the local karaoke star.
She found her voice, and truth started spilling out. "I'm gay!" she shouted to a friend a few weeks after continuing to blow the roof off the bar with more songs from Dreamgirls.
The response: "We know, sweetie. You've been singing Dreamgirls for weeks."
And sure, that story of self realization is equal parts moving and hilarious, but X Change carries that theme far deeper through the rest of her show. Trusting her gut and using her voice turns out to be a recurring theme in X Change's life. She became an international drag superstar on two seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race (about which Life Be Lifein' includes much backstage tea). Then, she entered her first long-term, but ultimately doomed, love affair—using your voice, it turns out, isn't always so easy.
If you were expecting a traditional drag show from X Change's new solo hour, you might be disappointed. She's dug way deeper than just entertainment for Life Be Lifein', crafting a work more on par with the likes of Fringe alum Mike Birbiglia and Alex Edelman.
It's X Change at the most vulnerable, intimate, and personal yet. Her trademark wit is there, too—this evening is jam-packed with belly laughs. "Anybody who dances to Britney Spears is at least a lil' bit gay," she says her of childhood obsession. "I'm looking at you, Timberlake."
Thankfully, she also lets us hear her sing. X Change does finally get to, "Lost in the Stars." That song, plus all the other songs that has had an impact on her life, come together in a glorious, show-stopping finale medley. As anyone who saw her incredible talent show performance in RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7 can attest, X Change isn't just someone who can sing. She comes with world-class vocals on everything from an operatic aria to a falsetto belt that shoots into the rafters.
Just like at that New Jersey college karaoke bar, X Change brings down the house at Edinburgh Fringe.
X Change is an internationally adored drag star and easily could have brought a more traditional drag show to Fringe and still made a splash. But it's refreshing to see her exploring new and more vulnerable territory with Life Be Lifein'. The show is unexpectedly deep and elevated. Even standing alongside countless other "life story" solo hours, Life Be Lifein' is unique and moving.
Don't worry, Drag Race fans. The laughs are plentiful in Life Be Lifein', and she looks fierce as ever. In short, X Change slays just as we've come to expect. But this introspective new show makes you feel something, too—and that might just be the biggest slay of all.
Monét X Change: Life Be Lifein' completed its Festival Fringe run August 15. She's scheduled to bring it to Chicago's Park West September 22. You can see X Change's full live performance schedule here.