Dancing Queen, the new Netflix series, is so rich in drama and drag that it almost outshines its leading lady, drag queen Alyssa Edwards.
As the show makes clear in its opening moments, there’ll be a constant tug-of-war for attention in this docudrama revolving around Justin Johnson, the artistic director of a dance studio for school kids in Mesquite, Texas and his alter-ego, RuPaul’s Drag Race perennial favorite, Alyssa Edwards.
Johnson pulls energy the way a black hole sucks light — everything in his orbit tends to look infinitesimal next to him, whether he’s sorting youngsters to become part of his touring troupe, or marrying the founders of clothing designers Marek+Richard.
That’s okay, because both Johnson and Edwards spew that energy right back at the universe they occupy. For a man who drives himself to work and manages to juggle two high profile careers with ease (as well as immerse himself in grooming rituals that makes high tech look barbaric), the star of Dancing Queen glides from one scene to the next with effortless panache.
Such stuff would make for a great documentary on its own merits, but once the personalities of his classes are introduced, emotions skyrocket higher than an Alyssa Edwards hairdo. Add to that a WASP nest of stage moms, and its clear there’s more than enough trauma, triumph and tiaras to justify a series lasting well into the next millennium.
In the first episode alone, we meet a parade of little wonders bitten by the bug for fame and the itch to dance like everyone’s watching. One is bi-polar; another not yet in puberty boasts that she has so many trophies that they’re stored in her parents’ bedroom — where Dad can’t sleep because their radiance fills the room with the light of her glory.
What remains to be seen is how both Johnson and Edwards fit into the community where he rules his dance studio, Beyond Belief, like Steve Rubell once ruled Studio 54. He may be fair-minded where Rubell was capricious, but don’t tell that to those moms trying to comfort the sobbing wanna-be stars who didn’t land a spot on the tour. More than that, what will rural Texans make of a brassy drag queen in their midst making or breaking their kids?
Lights. Camera. Action. Netflix is betting that if you’re not already captivated by Alyssa Edwards, you’ll find Justin Johnson irresistible as he mentors, manages, and maintains a delicate balance between his own incarnations and the combustible cavalcade of characters whirling around him.
Last modified: November 28, 2018