Big Return for Big Gay Affair

Get ready Pictou County: Jake and Shaun’s Big Gay Affair is preparing to make The Big Return.

Building on the rave reviews of their first-ever drag queen show in New Glasgow last July, the duo gathered up their special guests and their sequins and lipstick and took their comedy to Tatamagouche and then Wolfville. All shows were a little bit different but all offered the same family-friendly, rolling-in-the-aisles-with-laughter type of entertainment.

This will be the duo’s second New Glasgow performance and the June 24 show at Glasgow Square is all new. It still promises glitz and glamour, fun and frolic, music and entertainment, comedy and fashion and all points in between. But there will be some differences.

“We want to add in a new element that I’m hoping will be a group of people who will do a one-of type of thing,” said Jake Chisholm, one of the show’s co-creators.

“The Keltic Kittens fiddlers have taken on a bigger role and you’ll see them all through the show instead of just in one segment. There’s a lot more live music which people seem to be responding to, and there’s also some comedy so it stays that consistent theme of comedy all throughout the show,” Chisholm smiled.

A new video element will add to the production, Chisholm said.

“The videos are emotional; some of them are happy, some are really dark, some of them are sexy and sassy. The show has always been an emotional roller coaster but since we’ve added the videos it just goes an extra step further. And that’s what I wanted was to have the fluctuation of emotions throughout the whole thing. I want everyone to feel different things at different times and walk away feeling all those different emotions. Because it’s a show for everybody.”

He stressed, “It’s just a feel-good show about what it means to be a human and what it means to have emotions. And of course, it’s just a lot of fun! It’s a play meets a concert… you get the people who really enjoy plays, because we do all the live sketches which we write and act out ourselves, and you have the lip syncs — the classic drag numbers — because we didn’t want that to go away. Then the concert goes a step further with the live scenes.”

Returning with Chisholm and creative partner Shaun McLean is Miranda Wrights who hails from River John. “He has all these new numbers and it’s amazing what he puts out.”

Also returning is Steven Cooke from Westville. “He is going by Stevie Marie now. He says he’s retiring after this show, but we’ll see!” Chisholm grinned.

New to the New Glasgow show is Michael Martin. “He’s been in the Tatamagouche and Wolfville shows so we’re excited to have Michael.”

It takes a lot of time, effort and energy to pull off a drag show like the Big Gay Affair. But for Chisholm, it’s a labour of love.

“New Glasgow’s our home and we really want to give it our 100 per cent, so vocal rehearsals are ongoing; that never stops because you want your voice to be strong. Writing, for me and Shaun, is quite interesting. We could get together and nothing flows. Then we leave and start thinking and things start marinating overnight and then boom! The next day it’s like we struck gold. Between us, we just work so well.”

There are two rehearsals a week for the month leading up to the show — about 10 hours a week. “That’s really important for us because you have to know when to hit a certain line. What we don’t rehearse so much is the classic drag numbers; I think that’s just in our blood that we know what to do.”

The audience will also be delighted with the level of creativity — from lighting to comedy sketches to outfits. The performers are always in the hunt for the perfect piece of jewelry, shoes, etc.

“The wardrobe just seems to grow and grow. Because we have so many quick changes it makes it even harder because once you exit that stage you’re peeling everything off because you have to get that next outfit on and the jewelry to go with it and the right shoes. The shoes have to look good and be stylish yet comfy and that’s very hard to find. Those babies hurt after rehearsals!” Jake takes a size 11 shoe and when it comes to finding the right pumps to match an outfit, it can get pretty tricky.

Costumes are the most fun. Miranda Wrights and Stevie Marie make their own the majority of time. Shaun uses Merv Gaffney — “an out-of-this-world costume designer. There is a new costume people will see in the show. It is out of this world. Merv made it for Shaun — Shaun does this thing from the Sister Act movie with Whoppi Goldberg — he comes out and he’s a nun and the two people beside him are puppets and they’re all part of one big costume. It’s hilarious!”

Jake alters the clothes he buys. “For me, the look is so important. I’m very particular as to how I want to look. I have a sewing machine, but a lot of it is by hand — like with sequins and stuff. It takes time.”

The ensemble will also be doing a show at the Marigold Cultural Centre in Truro on July 29. They will be participating in the Pride parade earlier in the day, then right after the show they’ll be doing a performance in front of the new library.

The New Glasgow show will feature another first for Chisholm: he will be singing live for the first time.

“I haven’t sang by myself since I was 13,” he smiled.

Chisholm, who grew up in Hamilton, Ont., but has family connections here and in Antigonish and Guysborough counties, had Ray Lyell (from Ray Lyell and the Storm fame, rockers from the 1980s) as a vocal coach. Ray Lyell and the Storm released their self-titled debut album in 1989. Its first single, Another Man’s Gun, scored No. 6 on the AOR charts. Lyell was nominated for a Juno Award as Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1990.

“I did that for four years. Of course, when you get to high school you’re too cool to do all that, so I stopped,” he laughed.

In 1996, Lyell developed The Dynamic System of Vocal Teaching. He had a recording studio and a small club where his students would sing and people could watch.

“I’m very nervous but I want to do it because I feel like, in a way, it’s like I’m being very vulnerable… I just feel like New Glasgow, Pictou County, has been so good to me and it’s been home and I just think what a perfect way to come full circle.”

Chisholm considers himself to be more country than rock, and Shania Twain is one of his idols. “Of course I want to do a Shania song, but I’m more playing around to see what’s more comfortable, I need to find a song I can connect to, have meaning for me personally.”

The June 24 show is a kickoff to Pride Week. There will also be a dance after-party again this year. “It’ll be quite the party this year because all of the Pride people will be there. The show starts at 8 p.m. the dance will start after that, about 10:15, and run until about 1 a.m.”

For ticket information contact Glasgow Square Theatre.

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Jackie Jardine
Jackie is a Pictou County native and proud graduate of St. Francis Xavier University. She is a writer, editor and fledgling home cook. She has been in the newspaper business for almost three decades and jokes that she started when she was in her teens! She enjoys traveling, socializing and volunteering in her community.