The St. Joseph Mardi Gras festivities kicked off in true, traditional form of colorful costumes and celebratory dancing during the fourth Annual Mardi Gras Drag Show that took place on Feb. 13 at Shaft Nightclub, located at 615 Felix St.
The show was attended by over 150 people, who flooded the dance floor and seating area with a sea of the festival’s uniform colors of gold, purple and green.
Tyler Rhoad, a bartender at Shaft, who is also a senior at Missouri Western, and President of the Student PRIDE Alliance, attributes the success of the show to its nature of uniqueness.
“Mardi Gras at Shaft is unparalleled to anything else you will see in St. Joseph,” Rhoad said. “Whether someone is celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or bachlorette party, our drag shows are always entertaining – but Mardi Gras is something special, because it’s all about the party.”
The staff at Shaft spent countless hours of overtime in preparation for the event. With a newly refurbished stage, paint job, and flooring, the bar recently got a major overhaul just in time for 2010’s major festival events.
Rhoad feels that these changes have given Shaft an edge on other Felix Street competitors during the two week Mardi Gras season.
“We are constantly updating the bar and putting hundreds of man hours into improving the customer’s experience while they are here,” Rhoad said. “That’s why we have been able to produce this show for four years and be successful at generating the largest crowd in St. Joseph during Mardi Gras. We recently made some major improvements to the facility, and the compliments haven’t stopped pouring in.”
The event was hosted by Victoria DePaula (Carl Glorioso), who is no stranger to the profession of female impersonation. His performances were featured in “The Pageant,” a worldwide documentary that followed Glorioso, (as Victoria) to capturing the most coveted title in the art of female impersonation: Miss Gay America 2009. Glorioso performs once a month at Shaft, but particularly enjoys hosting Mardi Gras because of the diversity of clientèle that the nightclub offers, and the upbeat, ever changing atmosphere that comes from such a wide variety of club goers.
“You never know who is going to walk through the door here at Shaft,” Glorioso said. “We celebrate diversity and having a fun time, which is what Mardi Gras is all about. We are all here to have a good time, and whether it’s your first time or you’re a regular, as entertainers, we try to make your evening something that you’ll never forget.”
The show featured three other female impersonators, L’oreal, Melinda Ryder, and Sparkle Iman and one male impersonator, River Rain. Each entertainer performed two numbers, with commentary by DePaula in between costume changes. Drew Primm, an alumni of Missouri Western, finds that the playful banter and crude humor during the interaction with the audience is the key to the success of the show.
“With such a big and diverse crowd, the energy in the room is palpable,” Prim said. “You know from the moment Victoria opens her mouth that anything is likely to fall out, she’s great about feeling out the crowd and picking out people to pull on stage or make fun of. With the crowd constantly changing at this venue, you know that everything she says is impromptu – and that makes it even more impressive.”
If you missed the show on the 13th, you will have a second opportunity to catch it during an encore performance that will take place on Saturday, February 27, following the Mardi Gras Parade, which begins at 7 p.m. Entry to the Shaft is limited to the 21-and-over crowd, with a $5 cover charge on show nights. It does get busy, so the staff recommends getting there early to save yourself a seat, and as the people of New Orleans say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!).