The New York Daily News
THE KINGS OF BROADWAY QUEENS
By LETITIA ROWLANDS
December 21, 2004 — THERE’S plenty of nudge, nudge and lots of wink, wink going on along Broadway at the moment, possums. With no fewer than four shows currently featuring men in dresses (well, maybe five, if you count the guys in kimonos in “Pacific Overtures”), The Post decided to send two real New York drag queens along to judge how the productions measure up.
So saying, the Broadway cross-dressers’ hair, wardrobe and makeup were subjected to the discerning eyes (and lipstick rating system) of our girls, All Beef Patty and Peppermint, who waitress and perform at the Greenwich Village restaurant Lips.
“Putting a gay man in a dress does not make a drag queen,” declares Patty, 30, who stepped into her first pair of high heels four years ago.
“There’s an art to making gender seem fluid, but not taking yourself too seriously at the same time.
“If it’s not done right, it can look ridiculous, like a man who puts on a dress once a year at Halloween.”
Peppermint, 25, who describes herself as “an energetic beauty” with an eye for fashion and makeup, was equally keen to judge the shows.
“You can dress up and wear makeup, but you have to consider how a character would fit into the drag community,” explains Peppermint, who’s done drag since she was 19.
“It’s that drag reality factor that really counts.”
“Fabulous,” “superb” and “demeaning ” were just a few of the words she and Patty had for their Broadway counterparts.
Here are their verdicts, show by show:
The Tony-winning Mel Brooks’ production is, like the movie it’s based on, about a scheme to make the worst Broadway show ever – leading Max Bialystock and his mousy accountant Leo Bloom to hire the flamboyantly terrible director, Roger De Bris.
Overall drag rating: Average
Peppermint: “Roger De Bris [is] a very, very funny character, who provides many unexpected laughs throughout the show, but his/her drag life is a bit short lived – about five minutes. Seeing De Bris put her drag on piece by piece seems like playing a tape of Mr./Mrs. Transvestite Potato Head, until the very saucy and very satisfying end result.”
Patty: “The dress and wig were fabulous but were not displayed in any useful way. [De Bris] was used as a vehicle to propel every gay stereotype imaginable and the drag was only a small aspect of the show.
Big girls with big hair star in this hit musical based on the 1988 John Waters film about overweight teen Tracy Turnblad’s transformation into a Civil Rights activist and star of local TV. Bruce Vilanch stars as Tracy’s loving, equally plus-size mom, Edna.
Overall drag rating: Very good
Peppermint: “Edna Turnblad is a very endearing, lovable motherly figure. She fits into the show perfectly – almost too perfectly from a drag perspective. … Edna is a great example of that a frumpy woman that lives down the street, that just can’t seem to get to the beauty salon, but captures your heart with her inner beauty.”
Patty: “The whole show had a very camp feel. Bruce Valanch made the gender of his character feel very fluid – there was no question he was a man, but also a mother. Also, the transformation from frump to glamour drag, using a lot of classic camp shtick, was inspiring. The characters were portrayed as people you could root for.”
DAME EDNA: BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
Housewife and self-proclaimed international star Dame Edna, aka Barry Humphries, returns to Broadway – with an onstage pianist and a quartet of chorus boys and girls – to dish out her brand of “tough love” to a willing audience.
Overall drag rating: Very good
Peppermint: “Dame Edna is refreshingly more crass than most people would expect from someone who bears a strange resemblance to Barbara Bush on acid. From her very glamorous entrance and energetic opening song, she’s a reminder of what may happen when Grandma – or even worse, Grandpa – has a few too many cups of eggnog at the holiday party.”
Patty: “Barry Humphries completely immersed himself in the character, in a way commonly seen in many drag acts. She has everything perfected – from costume and wig to makeup and movement. Humphries made gender seem very fluid, leaving audience members confused [about] whether to refer to Edna as him or her. .. It is quite an achievement for a straight man to do drag so well.”
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s uplifting 1983 musical tells the story of Albin and Georges, middle-age partners who run a drag nightclub in St. Tropez, and the chaos that erupts when their son decides to marry the daughter of a local morals crusader.
Overall drag rating: Fabulous
Peppermint: “This cast does an amazing job, the sets are beautiful and the production as a whole is unmatched by any other show promising “gender illusion.” Zaza [Albin’s drag incarnation] delivers a lot of glamour and womanly appeal. Scene after scene, I can’t help but wonder where they keep all of those clothes! From a fashion standpoint, this show is a dream come true – and Zaza and Les Cagelles blow every other kick line out of the water.”
Patty: “The wardrobe and makeup were absolutely splendid and gave the show a very high camp factor. The change from male to female is done so well that some audience members are uncomfortable at first – not knowing what sex the performers are. But the performers don’t take themselves too seriously, and that gets them off the hook. This show is a must-see for anyone wanting a realistic glimpse of life in the drag community.”