New Orleans’ Skeleton House Krewe presents Maison MASKquerade


Skeleton House Nola debuts Maison MASKquerade, a Phantom of the Opera parody of 2021’s COVID-19 impact on New Orleans’ Mardi Gras season . Photo credit: Steven Blackmon

Baley Champagne

The New Orleans Skeleton House Krewe crafted its first Mardi Gras production, Maison MASKquerade, to embrace New Orleans’ carnival tradition and advise residents to still have fun, but be safe.

Maison MASKquerade, a New Orleans parody inspired by Broadway’s 1988, “Phantom of the Opera,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber is an art-filled take on this year’s pandemic inflicted carnival season as residents celebrated the holiday in decorated house floats and watched a three-night virtual Mardi Gras event.

Louellen Berger, of the Skeleton House Nola and a Loyola Donor, is the mastermind of the Skeleton House projects and dubbed the “Queen of Halloween,” knew she had to create an essence of how New Orleans is likely embracing the season.

“I was inspired to show that the spirit of Mardi Gras is alive and well in the hearts of New Orleanians,” expressed Berger. “It was to provide enjoyment and entertainment for people who been confined for nearly a year, and to provide an opportunity for our musical performers, as well, and support the concept of house parades, New Orleans’ new flair of decorated Mardi Gras float inspired houses, which supports local artists.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a city-wide shutdown from Feb. 16 until Mardi Gras day to prevent superspreader events happening around the city. Now, the city’s 2021 Mardi Gras season can go down in history as its annual 1.5 million party-goers were limited to watching an on-screen showcase.

In Maison MASKquerade, even the hearing impaired could read colorful lyrics that remind people of the current circumstances. It also informs the listener to reassure themselves; they are going to get through this pandemic, “let New Orleans love surround you; Mardi Gras can still astound you.”

By Lundi Gras, Maison MASKquerade’s video production had reached over 60,000 viewers

“The exuberance of phantom’s masquerade seemed a perfect reflection of the revelry and spirit of New Orleans,”said Berger, “And I was confident that Steven Blackmon could turn it into a masterpiece.”

Throughout the production New Orleans can be seen through Blackmon’s lens. Berger’s Skeleton House, Mardi Gras masks, beads, house floats, the French Quarter, old parade photos from past years, even the 6 10 Stompers made their debut in the first-ever Skeleton House Krewe Mardi Gras parody.

“I am the flesh and bones of her inspiration, “said Blackmon, who leads the choirs at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian. “I help make the lyrics fit, but it is the actual production of the video that I take the ball and run with.”

The message of safety is repetitive through Berger’s catchy lyrical parody which echoes haunting voices of “wear your masks so COVID cannot find you.”

“Her ideas are always amazing,” said Blackmon, “She is the one who decides what song we’re going to do a parody of, and provides the lion share of the lyrics that make their way into the video.”

The Skeleton House Krewe’s message entails to have faith, stay calm, and if you do take safety precautions, one day everyone will be able to gather and laissez les bon temps rouler.

Meg Frazier, Loyola’s Director of the School of Music and Theatre Arts, was a singer on the recording, along with Loyola’s, Tyler Smith and Betsy Uschkrat, musical alumni and Presbyterian church choir members. Frazier said the singers recorded tracks individually, for safety reasons, and Steven edited the sound and video, like a virtual choir.