Feb. 23 2011 12:00 AM

Chrome Cat and Spiral dress up their shows

From left, Ace Deville, Molten Lava and Aaliyah Martinez are three of the area's high-profile drag performers. Mary C. Cusack/City Pulse
It seems to have fallen on me to provide an annual State of the Lansing Drag Union address, via City Pulse.

There have been two significant changes since my last address. The first one is that the Chrome Cat in Old Town has settled on Wednesdays for its drag night. The bar began a Tuesday drag show around the time that Club X-Cel was ending its shows, and changed it to Wednesdays last fall. Co-owner Lisa Whitehead appreciates the power of drag. “They have had quite a following, and since (the move) our Wednesdays are usually packed.”

While the Chrome Cat is commonly considered a lesbian bar, Whitehead believes in promoting an environment that welcomes all.

“We don’t want to be just a women’s bar,” Whitehead explains. “We want to be a representation of the community, and the community is diverse.” To that end, Chrome Cat has added a drag king to its show, “because we like the diversity within the drag culture as well.”

The queens and kings take full advantage of the Chrome Cat floor plan. The intimate space ensures that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The stairwell allows for dramatic entrances and dance moves, as does the pole on the stage. While it is a theatrical space, the queens are stepping up the theatrical aspects of their performance with a new theme night down the road at Spiral Dance Club.

Spiral has been offering drag nights for six years. For the past two years Spiral has featured “Drag Queens Gone Wild” on Sunday evenings. This is a true showcase of area drag queens and kings, who perform club-oriented dance, R&B, and hip-hop songs in a flurry of sequins and sass.

The queens and kings have recently taken
it to the next level by introducing Broadway theme nights on the last
Sunday of the month. In January they test-drove the idea by doing
“Rent.” The event was a success, and planning began for monthly theme

lip-synched performances are more than a revue of song selections from
the shows; they give a fairly complete idea of what the show is like.
Interspersed between numbers are the usual audience-participation breaks
when birthday boys and girls, drag virgins, and other special guests
are rewarded with shots and potshots.

manager Darren Canejo strongly supports the theme nights. “It’s
something new,” he says, pointing out the uniqueness of the shows in the
greater drag scene. “You’re not seeing this anywhere in Michigan that I
know of.”

Sunday, the group will present “Dreamgirls,” with a cast of nine queens
and kings. The Dreamgirls themselves will be played by iconic queens
Delicious, Karma Vuitton and Eva Angelica. Upcoming shows will include
“Grease,” “Chicago,” “Hairspray” and — fingers crossed — “The Nightmare
Before Christmas” around Christmas. The group will produce “The Lion
King” for Pride Week.

This is a true labor of love for the cast, who take it very seriously. They are consummate performers who spend a big chunk of their free time creating costumes, refining their makeup and hair, and rehearsing songs and choreography.

acknowledges that with a group of strong personalities like these,
“there’s been a couple of screaming matches.” No surprise that these
cats have claws — sleek, sharp, artificial ones. This is, after all, a
group for whom “bitch” is a term of both belittlement and endearment.

Vuitton believes that their strengths will ensure success. “With Ace’s
craziness, Eva’s competitiveness and Delicious’ name, we can make
something happen here.”

reiterates the strong sense of professionalism. “It takes a lot of
commitment, energy and time, but once we come together, we’re here to
work, get it done, do a fabulous show.”

The queens and kings agree that there is more than enough room in this town for two drag nights.

drag community has so much talent that it was a good decision to have
two shows in this area,” says Aaliyah Martinez, who performs at both
venues. In fact, most of the queens and kings perform at both venues,
and Whitehead and Canejo are supportive of each other’s events.

would be tragic for interested audiences to be trepidacious about
attending a drag show. If Spiral’s dark, industrial club atmosphere
seems too intimidating, start out at the Chrome Cat, which Delicious describes as “more laid-back.” All are welcome at both venues.

One hint for the uninitiated: While Eva
Angelica, Delicious and Karma Vuitton performed last week at Spiral
Dance Club. “It takes a lot of commitment, energy and time," Delicious
says of the Spiral productions, "but once we come together, we’re here
to work, get it done, do a fabulous show.”

being identified as a drag show virgin might be mildy embarrassing, it might also get you a free shot.

You don’t know until you try.