As Paige Turner bounds onto the stage it’s as if a Lisa Frank sticker has leapt off the page of a 1980s collector’s album and into real life. Bright, glittery, bedazzled in neon stars, Turner’s energy immediately lifts the crowd up and unites the audience at Pilgrim House into a collective good mood. From beginning to end of Turner’s show Joyride she is always fully in control of what is really a party in a drag show, allowing longtime fans and newbies to relax into a really great time. A perfect blend of spectacle and showmanship, the “Showbiz Spitfire” masterfully takes the theatrical legacy of her native New York City and runs it through a cabaret and drag cyclone of high-energy queer comedy, but with a manicured hand extended to all.
Paige Turner is the creation of Daniel Kelley who developed the “love child of Pee Wee Herman and Barbie” 15 years ago at East of Eighth, a restaurant cum nightclub in Manhattan. Turner achieved a Herculean task in that she managed to work her way to the top of one of the most competitive drag scenes in the world in the age of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Fiery, yet friendly, Turner’s performances are not so much a stage show, but one that fills the room. Don’t get it twisted, there’s only one star of the show and it’s Turner. But Joyride delightfully defuses any tension or stress an audience may bring in with them and turns it into a piñata of sparkle and laughs.
Testament to the disguised ringmaster quality of Turner’s performance style is her use of audience participation. By the time she pulls somebody on stage the audience is so relaxed that no one is staring at their shoes or scurrying to the bathroom to avoid being chosen. Rather, the room is so in unison and so fully simpatico with Turner herself that it’s an unusually chill affair. In lesser hands utilizing the audience in a show can be a disaster, or a dud. But Turner’s vitality is delightfully infectious. Turner made her Provincetown debut back in 2013, returning here and there joining a crowded field of drag entertainment. However, it was during the confusing and jarring summer of 2020 that she secured firm footing here in town, performing in the Pilgrim House parking lot, entertaining tense audiences during uncertain times of pandemic and political tumult. With better days upon us, Joyride is all the more celebratory as it is indeed a welcomed change to blow off some steam with Turner as the perfect driver of the party bus.
Paige Turner presents Joyride at Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, Wednesday through Saturday until September 4 and then Friday and Saturday until September 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($40/$50) are available at the box office and online at pilgrimhouseptown.com. For more information call 508.487.6424.