‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season 4, Episode 7 recap: Broo-tiful: The Brooke Lynn Hytes Rusical

Our top six queens take on a Rusical all about their hostess’ life

There’s an inherent punchline to Brooke Lynn Hytes hosting and judging Canada’s Drag Race: she did not win her season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Someone who must call herself the Queen of the North is the one crowning Canada’s Next Drag Superstars. Increasingly, that is the norm when it comes to international series judges: Nicky Doll, Jiggly Caliente, Rita Baga, Valentina and so on. But Brooke Lynn was the first, and bore the brunt of being the first. Most notably, the “guest host” system in Season 1 and rotating hosting duties between her, Stacey McKenzie and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman seemed designed to keep her a level below a true host—as if to say that RuPaul is the only one able to serve as the true centrepiece of their show.

But over time, as Brooke Lynn has grown into her role and the greater Drag Race landscape has shifted, she’s been entrusted with more of the host role and is increasingly treated as the focal figure of Canada’s Drag Race. Her runway looks routinely gag the fandom—especially this season, when they’ve been impeccable every single week—and her critiques now strike the right balance between good advice to help the queens grow and empathy for their position in the competition, which she clearly remembers well.

So it feels like an appropriate time for Canada’s Drag Race to cement our ideas of Brooke Lynn in a canonical way: through the Unauthorized Brooke Lynn Hytes Musical Spectacular. Yes, it’s Rusical time, ladies, gaydies and theydies, with each of our top six tasked to play Brooke Lynn at a different point in her life. (Granted, three of these have to do with Drag Race, so it’s a skewed timeline. But I digress.) Though it may seem strange to follow up a lip syncing and dancing challenge with a non-live Rusical, effectively another lip syncing and dancing challenge, this “Broo-sical” makes for a fun installment of the show, and keeps the heat of this season going.

After a call-in advice show mini-challenge that Venus handily wins, and a RuMail message in which RuPaul shades Brooke Lynn for not being a winner (incredible), Brooke Lynn introduces the queens to this season’s Rusical, all about her. This challenge represents a major turn-up-the-heat moment in the competition, with everyone but Denim having a maxi-challenge win (“It’s coming!” she nervously promises) and the Golden Beaver officially off the table (“Stop relying on that Beaver!” Aurora Matrix sing-songs). With the competition so tight, finding our winner may, ironically, come down to who plays a runner-up best.

Venus wins a call-in show mini-challenge with some particularly absurd sex advice Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

 

The only big audition fight we get in this episode as the queens pick roles is for the opening number: Brooke Lynn as “ingénue,” or rather, a child. The song is a musical theatre track (each is done in a different style), and Melinda Verga wants it badly. Nearah Nuff and Denim both audition for it as well, but Melinda goes all out. Aurora, Venus and Kiki Coe all vote for Melinda to take the part. Nearah instead takes the choreography-heavy pop star role, about Brooke Lynn’s time on Drag Race, while Denim takes a gospel number (???) about Brooke Lynn as a judge that closes the show.

The others all more naturally slot into their roles: Aurora wants to try out the ballet-heavy second number, while Kiki and Venus are both in the mood to stretch themselves a bit. Despite a bouncy cabaret number not feeling in Kiki’s wheelhouse, and a dramatic opera track falling outside of Venus’, they each take those on, happily accepting a harder challenge. Nearah, who barely tried in her audition for the ingénue number, questions Kiki and Venus’ wisdom here, wondering why anyone would try and push themselves at this juncture of the competition.

Brooke Lynn does a walkthrough with the queens in the werk room, which mostly serves to show us some fun pictures of the hostess throughout her life as inspiration points. Notably, though, she gives Venus the note that during last week’s “Uninvited” lip sync, her emoting was a bit too much. (Hilariously, she says that Venus went to the “Kendall Gender School of Emoting.”) With this dramatic opera number, she’ll need to restrain herself a bit or risk going too big once again. I gotta say: I’m glad to hear Brooke Lynn make this critique. While I love Venus, and do think she easily beat Kiki in that lip sync, I saw a number of posts making the rounds online praising Venus heavily for that performance. While her emotion was raw, I also found it a bit overwrought—it’s good that Brooke Lynn is taking the time now to offer the correction.

Hollywood Jade returns as our choreographer (with a gorgeous new head of hair), and he seems to have really settled into a good rhythm with the queens. He’s still challenging, but unlike in his earliest appearances, he’s a lot more considerate of their different learning paces and styles. Very Jamal Sims-esque, I’d say. Melinda struggles the most, getting some ballet steps that she wasn’t expecting to have to do. But overall, as we just saw last week, this is a group that knows how to move.

Aurora Matrix serves ballet elegance and comedy in her Rusical number, earning her her second maxi-challenge win Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

We get a major break in format as the show plays the wedding march for the runway instead of “Cover Girl,” in tribute to the “Always a Bridesmaid” runway category this week. (Making a notorious runner-up’s tribute episode runway category about being a perpetual bridesmaid … never change, Canada’s Drag Race.) Brooke Lynn looks stunning in a wedding gown, topping herself yet again after a season of truly incredible looks. How will the queens fare at making this queen, who has slowly become larger-than-life, into a relatable Rusical character?

The answer is: quite well! The results are strong across the board this week, as nearly all of the queens acquit themselves with aplomb in their performances. Melinda is adorably precocious as the ingénue, nailing her steps and performing enthusiastically. Aurora dances to Swan Lake” beautifully, punctuating her various moves with horny sounds (get it? Brooke Lynn’s a slut!), but it’s odd to have her perform an entirely lyric-free number in a Rusical. Kiki gives the cabaret number her best effort, but has some foibles with her choreography and props that stand out in an otherwise rock-solid group.

In the back half—the Drag Race half—Nearah gets a number that’s purposefully styled to sound like Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry,” and gets an outfit that’s a version of Brooke Lynn’s runway from that episode. It’s a very funny visual gag, and Nearah does the number justice … albeit with a lot of moves that we just saw from her in the lip sync smackdown. The show even edits together three separate instances of the same moves. It really makes Nearah’s decision not to fight for a different role look unwise in retrospect.

Meanwhile, Venus calibrates her performance a bit more (I still think she’s too exaggerated) and earns plaudits for it, which is likely in part because hers is the most entertaining section of the Rusical. (The fake Yvie Oddly popping up in the corner!) Meanwhile, Denim has to share part of her performance with the full cast coming back out, and she lacks the confidence and stature to portray Brooke Lynn at the hyte (sorry) of her power. 

Luann de Lesseps makes for a terrific guest judge this week. “Elegance is learned, my friends!” Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

In the “Always a Bridesmaid” category, Aurora’s corpse bridesmaid and Venus’ living bouquet looks are jaw-droppers, while Nearah looks good, if a bit underwhelming, in a throwback southern bridesmaid’s look. Melinda and Kiki both lean heavily into characters for their presentations, with Melinda’s stereotypical bridesmaid “Laurel” earning praise for relatability but a knock from Brooke Lynn for being a bit underwhelming. Kiki’s look, on the other hand, is a smash, as she plays up being a hard-partying grandmother bridesmaid. There’s an incredible moment during her runway presentation when Brooke Lynn accidentally says “She’s ready to get fingered” instead of saying “ring-fingered,” which makes Brad Goreski lose his shit. It’s so fun!

Denim is last out of the gate, and the discrepancy between her runway and her challenge performance is a good barometer of where Denim is in this competition. Her runway look, made of garters, is so inventive and cute, and clearly stands out in terms of her thoughtfulness in her drag. However, her lack of confidence in the Rusical means her runway can’t save her, and she lands in the bottom two next to Kiki. (Notably, these two are the same ones who lost their first-round lip syncs last week.)

“The judges will deliberate … finally!” Brooke Lynn announces, reminding us the Golden Beaver twist is officially over. (Also, Brooke Lynn’s quote was fully me watching Season 15.) Aurora ultimately wins—I might have given it to Venus, but I think things are pretty even across the board for the top three this week—while Venus and Nearah score high and Melinda is called safe. Denim and Kiki must lip sync to Jully Black’s version of “Seven-Day Fool,” and let me tell you, this is fun. Both of them have a blast with the song, as does everyone in the room. Venus once again wins the prize for killing the lip sync from the back of the room, while Brooke Lynn looks just about ready to hop up on stage and start performing with them.

In the end, I actually disagree with the final judgment, as Denim wins and Kiki goes home. While I think both queens gave good performances, Kiki seems much more in tune with the spirit of the song, while Denim pulls out a couple of stunts (including a pretty crunchy split) that feel mismatched. But I can understand how, narratively, Denim still has some room to grow, while it feels like Kiki is struggling to stand out. But even though she’s going home, Kiki should take heart: if this Rusical proves anything, it’s that you don’t have to win the Race to make your own victory.

Money can’t buy you final thoughts

Okay, I know we ordinarily dig into all sorts of random ephemera down here, but this week I’m dedicating this whole section to the woman of the hour: our guest judge, Luann de Lesseps. The Countess and current Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy star gave us so many amazing little moments in just one judging stint that I can’t help but *extremely Bethenny Frankel voice* mention it all!

It’s always amazing to me what a handle Lu has on all her various catchphrases and memes. It’s very Drag Race queen-coded, honestly. When she effortlessly pulls out a “be cool, don’t be all uncool” during a critique? Gorgeous.

My single favourite moment of Lu’s during judging is during Kiki’s critiques, when Traci Melchor brings up the dropped hat. Lu says she can relate, and more than that, she’s been through worse—telling the story of when a fan vomited on her. Not only is it a funny story, it’s also valuable in actually teaching a lesson about being a performer: as Lu says, she just brushed off the puke, made a joke about getting the woman a napkin and moved on. Entertaining stories with actual educational value? The U.S. judging panel could learn a thing or two from the Countess!

I must say: a true missed opportunity to not have one of Lu’s songs be the lip sync song this week. “Money Can’t Buy You Class” would slap, but can you imagine “Feelin’ Jovani”? An instant classic lip sync waiting to happen!

Venus just immediately giggling and then screaming when Lu said hi to her … she’s so relatable.

At one point, Lu talks about loving a happy ending, which makes all the other judges giggle. Not in on the joke, she asks why they’re laughing, and Brooke Lynn underlines the humour of the happy ending line. Not missing a beat, Lu immediately picks it back up: “Who doesn’t love a happy ending?” A comedienne!

Bringing out the opera glasses for Venus’ number? Luann giving us Season 5 RuPaul!

I know there will always be some who look at Real Housewives cast members judging Drag Race and wonder what they’re doing there—what could people famous for hosting dinners and getting into fights about petty matters have to offer as judges? But I think Lu’s stint here really makes an argument for more of them. Yes, Lu has a bit more direct experience as a cabaret performer (genius move to bring her in for the Rusical), but much of what she has to offer would carry through most expert Housewives’ wheelhouses: an understanding of branding, an appreciation of elegance and glamour, and a desire to entertain above all else. RuPaul’s Drag Race has had a couple of Housewives on before (Kandi Burruss, Camille Meyer and both Lisa Rinna and Garcelle Beauvais before they were Housewives), but they should take a hint and bring in more of these women. High on my wish list: Sonja Morgan, Lisa Vanderpump, Kenya Moore, Lisa Barlow and Karen Huger.

Upon seeing Aurora’s corpse bride: “Ramona, is that you?”

The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race will be available to stream on Thursday, Jan. 4—yes, in 2024!—at 9 p.m. EST on WOW Presents Plus in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. You can subscribe to our drag newsletter, Wig!, for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.

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Culture, Drag Race, Analysis, Drag

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