OLEAN, NY – Veronyca’s Showgirls are in the habit of putting on risqué drag shows – most frequently at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge, 201 W. State St., every other Saturday.
The day before Mother’s Day, however, showgirls Diva D’Vyne-Island, Veronyca DeVaine-Paige and Willow Turnher-Paige switched up their act for a family-friendly show at Jamestown Community College.
The age range of attendees was broad. The youngest audience member was 1, and senior citizens filled the seats too. The performers made it a priority to involve the children in every act, bringing them in various groupings on stage to dance. Audience members in their seats were treated to pizza and other refreshments.
At first, the young ones were hesitant to join the dancers on stage. But as Turnher-Paige, dressed in a short blue dress, heels and bright red lipstick, led some children in the upbeat “Popular” from the musical “Wicked,” stage fright magically vanished.
Other favorite songs the showgirls performed included Green Day’s “American Idiot,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”
DeVaine-Paige, the executive director of Veronyca’s Showgirls, led the group in what she said is her favorite “high-energy dance beat” number, the Melanie Amaro version of the Aretha Franklin classic “Respect.”
The performers made good use of props, tossing plastic gold coins during fantasy-themed numbers. D’Vyne-Island made children laugh as she surprised them with her Chinese hand fan. The performers changed outfits for every act, so that their costumes complemented the songs.
“I have to decide on the songs that I want to do, and with that pick out outfits, heels, wigs, jewelry and any props that go with each song,” D’Vyne-Island explained after the show.
Turnher-Paige commented, “Family shows are great because they help break the stigma that drag is an adult thing that belongs in the bars.”
Doing a family-friendly show has its challenges.
“Performing a family-friendly show is a lot more difficult than performing a regular show,” DeVaine-Paige said. “We have to really be conscious of how we present ourselves in front of the young ones. It’s important to make sure they are not going to be exposed to a more adult atmosphere.”
Making the show appropriate for all ages requires careful song selection and outfit design.
“For kid shows there cannot be any profanity in our songs, and our outfits cannot be showing off any of the goodies, so to speak,” D’Vyne-Island said.
Whether the showgirls are preparing for their regular audiences or families, their prep work is intensive.
“What many people don’t realize is how much preparation goes into every show,” Turnher-Paige said. “I spend at least a week before each show listening to my songs everywhere I go to make sure I have them perfectly memorized.”
Turnher-Paige added that she has a closet filled with drag outfits and that she arrives at every show with two suitcases filled with clothes, makeup, duct tape and even a hot glue gun for last-second repairs.
Veronyca’s Showgirls are a part of the LGBTS group COLORS, a not-for-profit social club co-founded by Dann D.H. and his husband, Alan H., in 2012.
“We started the group to make people aware that the LGBT community exists,” Alan H. said.
Though COLORS originated in Olean, the club does not have an official territory; some of its events are in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
In addition to its drag shows, COLORS has an annual Christmas party and bowling events. And it has planned a picnic for August.
“The best part about COLORS is it is not exclusive,” Turnher-Paige said. “Belonging to a group that is so welcoming and supportive has been amazing.”
Alan H. noted, “The goal for COLORS is socialization and for us to be able to put on events we rely on memberships and donations.”
Yearly memberships are $12 for a single person and $20 for couples.
Veronyca’s Showgirls are scheduled to perform at the Allegany American Legion, 4350 Route 417, on June 4 at 10 p.m. The showgirls’ next regular Moose Lodge appearances will be on May 28 and June 11 at 9 p.m.