Brita Fagerstrom performs as Roman Wilde at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar on July 8. During the show, Fagerstrom performed show-stopping numbers as Wilde, including an homage to Queen, a roof-raising Bon Jovi tribute, and a fun turn as a retro crooner. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Kings are wild: Juneau Drag returns to live shows with a diverse cast of kings and queens

Juneau Drag returns to live shows with a diverse cast of kings and queens

Juneau Drag is back with live performances in local bars after the pandemic moved shows online. And, compared to drag shows in the Lower 48, Juneau’s troupe sports a decidedly different vibe with a full roster of kings— as well as queens.

According to Elaine Bell, who performs as Luke the Duke of Bell, the troupe consists of 14 kings and 15 queens—an unusual mix as most troupes generally feature more queens than kings.

“We’ve had a record number of kings that have popped up. It’s amazing,” Bell said in a phone interview Tuesday.

At a show last week at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar, the kings shared the stage with the queens — and the audience loved it.

“The crowds have been phenomenal. People are looking for a really inclusive space. People are really passionate about showing up,” said Brita Fagerstrom, who performs as Roman Wilde, in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

At last week’s show, Fagerstrom performed show-stopping numbers as Wilde, including an homage to Queen, a roof-raising Bon Jovi tribute and a fun turn as a retro crooner.

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Calling all kings

“Juneau is incredibly accommodating for kings, which is not the case in the Lower 48 states,” said Fagerstrom, who has been performing in drag shows for four years, including two with Juneau Drag.

The origin of Juneau’s unusual mix of performers is unknown.

“It’s hard to tell why,” Bell said, adding that the high concentration of “theater people” in and around Juneau might be a contributing factor. “It’s an outlet for them to do what they love. It’s an opportunity to be creative. It’s probably in the water,” she laughed.

Fagerstrom, who has a degree in musical theatre, said she’s been on the stage her whole life but performing at drag shows “feels phenomenal and really accepting.”

She outlined the difference between traditional theatrical productions and drag shows.

“Usually, you use a script and do lots of practice. But, this is your own thing. You do your own costumes, your own music. You have a number, and you are in charge of it. You are steering your own ship,” Fagerstrom said.

Fagerstrom said that she often makes her costumes and that the entire transformation for shows can take an hour or two. She’s learned to change into costume quickly so that she can work until 6:30 p.m. and still be ready for showtime at 7 p.m.

Bell said that she focuses on finding fast songs that lend themselves to dancing. Unlike many performers, she has a background as an athlete rather than a performer.

Bell said that she was inspired to start performing after seeing a Glitz Show, staged by Gigi Monroe (James Hoagland) a few years ago.

“I have always felt like a boy. I saw some kings in that show, and I saw it as an opportunity to put on some facial hair and perform. I thought, hey, I’d like to be in a boy band.” Bell said.

Both performers credit Hoagland as the driving force behind Juneau Drag.

“Gigi is the drag mom of Juneau,” Fagerstrom said.

Elaine Bell performs as Luke the Duke of Bell in a Juneau Drag show. She is one of several kings who perform with the troupe. (Courtesy Photo / Elaine Bell)

Elaine Bell performs as Luke the Duke of Bell in a Juneau Drag show. She is one of several kings who perform with the troupe. (Courtesy Photo / Elaine Bell)

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Taking the show on the road

Both performers agree that post-pandemic audiences appreciate live shows and that traveling with the troupe makes them better performers.

Bell said the group has traveled to Sitka and Skagway. She said she’d love to do a show outside of Alaska with former performers who have moved away.

“Traveling is beneficial. You learn a lot,” Bell said. “The crowds are big every time.”

On the road or at home in Juneau, the troupe generally performs two shows a night—an early and a late show.

Fagerstrom said the earlier crowd is generally full of “empowered allies,” and the later shows “are a lot rowdier,” she added.

Know & Go

Juneau Drag generally performs monthly shows. Visit www.juneaudrag.com to learn more about upcoming performances and tickets sales or follow the group on Facebook.

Shows are scheduled for 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday at the Red Dog Saloon, 278 S. Frnaklin St. The earlier show is sold out. Tickets can be purchases online at https://juneaudrag.brownpapertickets.com/. for $15. Audience members are rquired to be fully vaccinated and must present their vaccination card and photo ID to enter.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund @ dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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