Gender-bending ‘Queerly Beloved’ unleashes glam on stage

Campy variety show has entertained Slaughter County Brewing Company audiences since 2017

The gender-bending “Queerly Beloved” stage show torched a crowded house at Slaughter County Brewing Company on a recent Saturday night where more than a dozen divas showcased their LGBTQ+ talents in lip-sync, glorious glam and queer-friendly risque at Port Orchard’s version of “La Cage aux Folles.”

For three fan-tab-u-lous hours, “Queerly Beloved” (puns on “dearly beloved”) kings and queens tripped the light fantastic in stilettos and biker boots as “Queen” and “Ace of Spades,” “Vibe-N-VanDyke” (the juggling drag king) and “Moxie McCann,” who pushed their alter egos to perform favorite songs in a night of “Love Sex Magic.”

Titled “Reboot,” this month’s variety show featured camp drag, queer goth, cheesecake comedy, performance art and circus acts that incited whoops and hollers and dollar tips at this pirate-decor bar.

As for me, even this white heterosexual senior citizen was ready to jump up, bump and grind death drops to that classic burlesque tune “The Stripper.” Thankfully, I spared the audience.

‘Glam-A-Zon’

Anyway, behold “Ginger Snap,” Glam-A-Zon extraordinaire. Nearly seven feet tall in heels, she felt the fantasy in a fringed, sequin gown and silver wig. She lip-synced and runway strutted to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” until she yanked off her wig to reveal 21-year-old Hunter Bush.

Nikolai Knight vamped a fantasy fandango to Unlike Pluto’s “Sweet,” then stripped as a noir femme fatale busting out of a corset in jeweled pasties. Local stage kitten “Bruno Baewatch” (Jayme Giles), a “trans man with pasties and something super fabulous,” sported a leash, leather harness and shimmering shawl as he danced down the house to “Eros and Apollo.” And don’t forget bad boy “Maurice Marauder,” who vogued to “F*&# Away the Pain.”

“I’m a physically fat, queer, trans person,” said Marauder’s alter ego, 34-year-old Rowan Lenihan, who lives in Silverdale.

“The first time I performed, I was nervous. I thought no one would want to look at me … I’m really proud how much I’ve matured by performing and how it’s helped me accept myself as I am.

“Everyone is gorgeous and beautiful. This space is radically inclusive … we want everyone to feel comfortable,” Marauder said.

He, his partner “Nikolai Knight” (whose actual name is Nic Shakley), and “Fluffgasmic Marvelous” (Ravenna Mourningdove-Marvelous) informally started the group first as a queer and undocumented student fundraiser at Olympic College in 2015 and 2016. Then “Queerly Beloved” held its first official show on Nov. 26, 2016, at a Bremerton bar now known as Wee Blu Inn Again.

They performed their first show at Slaughter County on Valentine’s Day 2017. They perform there on the first Saturday of every month. They also perform regularly at Dog Days Brewing in Bremerton.

“We’re one big happy family. We have a safe space where they can be who they want to be,” Shakley, 25, said.

Shakley considers identifies as gender fluid and prefers “they/them” pronouns. “Queerly Beloved: Equitable Justice Continuum” was founded on a mission to provide LGBTQ + queer-friendly safe spaces in Kitsap County where this community feels free to explore and express their various identities and artistic gender expressions in a body-positive, uplifting environment.

To say it has a faithful following is an understatement.

“People are doing things you wouldn’t expect to see them do. They are expressing different sides of themselves. It’s beautiful.” said Kimberly Sloan of Port Orchard, who was a Saturday audience member.

Celebrating their third year on stage this month, the performers stress that it is not a drag show. Rather, it’s instead a variety show that encourages performers with a wide range of talents.

They defined “drag” as being too self-deprecating, highly caricatured and preferential to gay male performers. While “Queerly Beloved” uses aspects of drag, they find it not inclusive enough for their niche.

“We prefer not to call it a drag show,” Shakley said. “A lot of drag does not use trans or queer people. It’s mainly sis gay men making fun of trans, queer people.”

In fact, “Vicious VanDyke” (played by Jessa Judnick) and “Vega VanDyke” (who is Laura Frazer), a duet who perform “You Should See Me in a Crown,” turn traditional drag on its head by creating stunning, “trashion-fashion” performance art that out-drags drag.

“We are queens. We are hyper queens,” said Judnick, who is married to performer “Vibe-N-VanDyke,” played by D’mitry Judnick.

“We are sis gender women who say, ‘We can do drag just as well as men.”

Whatever the gender genre, “Queerly Beloved” is an eye-candy, oeuvre of queer fun and fabulous schtick that promises lots of holiday and tinsel galore at their next holiday edition show Dec. 7 at Slaughter County.

In the meantime, I must share with you a personal dilemma: Where can I find a killer gown, fishnet stockings and Rudolph the Red Nose stilettos?

Jana Mackin is a Port Orchard resident and columnist for the Port Orchard Independent.

Stage kitten Jayme Giles, 26, of Port Orchard (“Bruno Baewatch”). (Laura Johnson photo)

Stage kitten Jayme Giles, 26, of Port Orchard (“Bruno Baewatch”). (Laura Johnson photo)

Laura Frazer (“Vega VanDyke”), above, performs as part of a girl duet with Jessa Judnick (“Viscious VanDyke”). (Laura Johnson photo)

Laura Frazer (“Vega VanDyke”), above, performs as part of a girl duet with Jessa Judnick (“Viscious VanDyke”). (Laura Johnson photo)

Nic Shakley, 25, of Silverdale — aka “Nikolai Knight,” — is a founding member of “Queerly Beloved” and the partner of fellow performer Rowan Lenihan. (Jana Mackin photo)

Nic Shakley, 25, of Silverdale — aka “Nikolai Knight,” — is a founding member of “Queerly Beloved” and the partner of fellow performer Rowan Lenihan. (Jana Mackin photo)

Performer Rowan Lenihan performs as “Maurice Marauder.” (Laura Johnson photo)

Performer Rowan Lenihan performs as “Maurice Marauder.” (Laura Johnson photo)

Performer Rowan Lenihan performs as “Maurice Marauder.” (Laura Johnson photo)

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