Monday, July 22, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Drag is big. It’s having a moment right now in Las Vegas and everywhere else, thanks in part to the wildly successful VH1 show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Drag brunches and performances in variety shows have been popping up along the Strip in recent months, and the latest opens this weekend at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
“Drag Queen Cuisine” stars longtime local performers Toni James and Derrick Barry leading a cast of six drag and burlesque artists. With doors opening at 5 p.m. on Saturday, it’s unique in the current showbiz landscape in that it’s a dinner show and a drag show playing at night.
“Drag has come so far in the past 15 years, since I moved here, when ‘La Cage’ was all there was,” says Barry, known for performing as Britney Spears. “It’s become so mainstream. To be back on the Strip on a Saturday night at the House of Blues, it feels like everything is coming together so perfectly.”
Barry was part of the cast of Frank Marino’s “Divas Las Vegas” at the Linq Hotel & Casino before that show, an extension of Marino’s long run with “An Evening at La Cage” at the Riviera, closed last year. With the rowdy drag brunch shows starting to take hold on the Strip, including a weekly event at Treasure Island’s Señor Frog’s restaurant and bar, there’s space for such a show at night.
That’s especially true since the demand for drag is rising, Barry says. “Vegas was always a pioneer with Kenny Kerr and Frank Marino doing it since the ’70s and ’80s,” he says. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that it was still outside the box for Vegas to do drag so long ago. It’s always felt mainstream to me because I’ve performed for hundreds of thousands of people over the last 15 years, but to have it brought into people’s homes by a TV show is a completely different story.”
Barry, who has appeared on “Drag Race” and “America’s Got Talented” in addition to regularly touring the country and overseas, is still based in Las Vegas and performs at several private shows and corporate events as Britney. For “Drag Queen Cuisine,” he’ll be doing Britney and Mariah Carey. “It’s really a perfect time for us to try things we’ve wanted to try and do things we know we’re great at, so we can give the audience something different with every number,” he says. “I’m excited to bring my Mariah to the Strip because everyone things all I do is Britney, but there are other characters I’ve been working on.”
“Drag Queen Cuisine” will be presented July 27 and August 3 and 10 at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay and more information can be found at houseofblues.com.