What A Drag is one of the most anticipated events in Puerto Vallarta each year. The show is a fundraiser to support Casa Esperanza Women’s Shelter and Compassion for the Family.
It’s a musical comedy show like no other, with an evening of music, dancing, and hilarious theater, as straight men dress in drag for the first time in their lives and participate in a talent show, with the help of their Fairy Drag Mothers who do their makeup, costumes, styling and coach them on how to walk in heels and perform onstage.
The show is held at Teatro Vallarta each year. This year, due to COVID-19, the theater itself only had a small live audience in compliance with Covid protocols, with every other row of seats blocked off, and the theater only about 25% full.
This year the show was live-streamed for the first time ever, by Colectivo Hueco, and over 200 live viewers tuned in on Facebook to watch the stream. There were also satellite viewing parties at Act2PV’s Starlight Cabaret, Monzon Brewing, and Casa Karma where small audiences gathered to watch the live stream on projector screens.
Sutton Lee Seymour hosted this year’s event onstage as the “Mistress of Ceremonies,” while Amy Armstrong hosted the online streaming.
Eli Estrada opened the show, singing Stand By Me in a beautiful solo performance, and then Sutton Lee Seymour performed Queen Like Me.
Ruben Marquez performed a belly dance, and the six contestants were introduced one at a time, each belly dancing across the stage.
Sutton Lee Seymour then asked each contestant a question in the style of beauty pageants, and their answers were amusing. They performed a second belly dancing number as a group with Celeste Innocenti singing.
Each contestant then performed individually during the talent portion of the show. As is tradition, each contestant created a drag queen character with a drag name.
Todd Atkins portrayed “Berry Sweet.” Her Fairy Drag Mother, Steven Retchless said, “Berry Sweet was inspired by UK transgender drag queen ‘Juno Birch.’ Drag is not just about making a man appear as a woman but embodying a fantasy. Juno is a trans woman in drag who is inspired by the movie Mars Attacks and an alien’s interpretation of an Earth Woman. Set as an ideal housewife, Stepford wife with fashions from the 50s-70s. She often uses varying tones of pastel skin tones from blue, pinks and peach. Her signature look is always topped off with a pair of wide angle sunglasses and white acrylic paint highlights. Todd is the owner of Lix Ice Cream, so I wanted to choose a name of a an ice cream flavor, and since were changing his entire skin tone blue we went with ‘Berry Sweet.'”
She performed Barbra Streisand’s “Gotta Move,” set in a grocery store where Berry Sweet was mopping the floor and dreaming of a new life. The lyrics of the song are about a woman getting out of a troubled situation and moving to a new town with new faces. She had five backup dancers, led by Ulises Perez Torrez and his group, Loco Por la Rumba. It was an interesting performance, and even she rolled a shopping card across the stage.
Berry Sweet was sponsored by Ryan Donner Realtor y Asociados.
Carl Sidoti portrayed “Marilyn Hungloe,” an homage to Marilyn Monroe’s character in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She performed Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend with a small cast of back-up dancers in ballgowns and suits, in a recreation of the number from the film. Marilyn Hungloe was sponsored by Elengorn Realtors, and she earned 2nd runner-up for this performance.
Ryan Bymaster portrayed “Minni Nomember.” She performed a spirited version of Aretha Franklin’s Respect with backup dancers in sequined jackets and images of respected women projected on the screen behind her, including everyone from Madeline Albright to RuPaul. For the number’s finale, she was levitated in a hoop over the stage while her backup dancers held pyrotechnic sparklers. Minni Nomember was sponsored by the Texas Embassy Blues Band and Keller Williams Luxury properties, and her performance earned her 1st runner-up.
Billy Pilawski portrayed “Lola Pop.” She performed an exciting version of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana (At the Copa), complete with conga line and extravagant headdress. Lola Pop was sponsored by ReMax Sites Marina & Destiny.
Tirso García portrayed “CarolinAmor,” an homage to Courtney Love and her band Hole, as well as a nod to theater tech crews everywhere. Tirso himself is a professional theater tech, with his background running lights and sound at Act2PV, on a cruise ship, and now at Collectivo Hueco. CarolinAmor walked out on stage with her own set of theater lights and handmade wooden cut-out guitar. After a minute of funny on-mic banter with the tech crew in the booth at Teatro Vallarta, she performed Hole’s Celebrity Skin while turning on her own stage lights one at a time and rocking out. This performance was modern and funny, and much appreciated by all theater geeks who witnessed it. CarolinAmor was sponsored by Dr. Randy Trust and Nacho Daddy, and supported by his Fairy Drag Mother Kami Desilets and the rest of the crew at Collectivo Hueco.
John Guptill portrayed “Charity Fundrazor,” an homage to Lady Gaga. She performed a medley of Born This Way and Bad Romance. Her costume and the costumes of her backup dancers were certainly creative, in typical Lady Gaga fashion, including hospital gowns and masks, as well as horns.
Charity Fundrazor won this year’s Ms. Sweet Charity for collecting the most funds of any contestant in the fundraiser, and she also won first place in the show and was crowned the winner with the title of Ms. What A Drag. Charity Fundrazor was sponsored by Barcito PV.
Voting was conducted via paper ballot at Teatro Vallarta as well with a poll on Facebook.
After the individual talent performances, Kim Kuzma, Amy Armstrong, Sutton Lee Seymour, Al Carswell and Tonny Kenneth performed.
Alex Daoud was awarded best makeup and hair styling. Additional Fairy Drag Mothers, hair stylists and makeup artists included Amberleigh Thatsalll, Javier Martinez, Kimberly LaRue, Luis Germany, Mary Pompa, Nickitta Fuentes, Nicky Ziccolonee, Olga Lidia Maldonado Valle, PoLy Muñoz Duran, Vicente Martell and their teams.
The show ran smoothly with high production value and professionalism, even when an audience member unexpectedly walked onto the stage! Sutton Lee Seymour expertly guided him off the stage and back into the audience where he belonged.
“This year, Covid made us do things differently. So, we did,” show director Javier Martinez said on his Facebook page. “We went online for the first time… Broadcasting this unique experience to the universe may be here to stay.”
The goal of What A Drag is to raise money for Casa Esperanza, the Banderas Bay women’s shelter. This year’s event raised $1,088,433 pesos for the shelter, which is the majority of the organization’s yearly operating budget. Casa Esperanza exists due to its founder and director, David Zude. The entire Puerto Vallarta community extends immense gratitude for his important work providing a safe place for women and children escaping domestic violence.
We Love PV was the presenting sponsor for the event, and additional sponsors included The Rice Girls, Lori Baumgardner, American English Tree, Kim Kieler Properties, Jim Davis, David Wilhoit, Coldwell Banker La Costa Realty, Puerto Vallarta Boat Club, and BNC Tax.
The What-A-Drag committee is Freda Thompson, Tammy Carruthers Prust, Christopher de Ande, Jim Lee, Juan Alvarado, Virgil Salzman and Michael Bracken. Javier Martinez is the show director.
To purchase tickets for next year’s event, or get involved in next year’s event as a contestant or a volunteer, please contact Freda Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org