“Leave your expectations at the door, just let your eyes explore…”
Long before “RuPaul’s Drag Race” took the world by storm, Broadway was making strides in LGBT inclusion and representation. For example, musicals such as “Falsettos” and “Rent” portrayed realistic scenarios of the AIDS epidemic in urban settings. Meanwhile, drag characters have been and continue to be a staple of Broadway shows, whether they are written as comic relief or deep provocative figures.
As a tribute to the seasons of love audiences have with these characters, here are 15 of our favorite drag roles in musical theatre:
1. Edna Turnblad from ‘Hairspray’
First played on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein, Edna Turnblad is the loving, protective mother of rising “Corny Collins Show” star Tracy Turnblad. John Travolta played Edna in the 2007 film version of the musical.
2. Mary Sunshine from ‘Chicago’
First performed on Broadway by Michael O’Haughey, Mary Sunshine is a sympathetic new reporter following the murder trials of Roxie and Velma. Although the role is usually done by a man in drag, Christine Baranski played the character in the 2002 film version.
3. Sylvia St. Croix from ‘Ruthless’
A sleazy talent agent with a dark secret, Sylvia aspires to turn fame-hungry Tina Denmark into a star.
4. Ms. Trunchbull from ‘Matilda’
The fearsome headmistress of Crunchem Hall, Ms. Trunchbull hates children and stops at nothing to put Matilda and her classmates in their place — or The Chokey.
5. Lola from ‘Kinky Boots’
A headlining drag queen at a London nightclub, Lola teams up with Charlie to create a brand of high-heeled boots in order to save Charlie’s shoe factory.
6. Mrs. Taylor from ‘Bat Boy’
An aggressive and overbearing mother, Mrs. Taylor seeks to protect her children from the alleged horrors of the Bat Boy. The character is one of Laurence O’Keefe’s few drag roles.
7. Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith from ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’
An aged, unmarried noble, Lady Hyacinth is a philanthropist who aims to boost her social status by partnering with the right charity.
8. Hedwig from ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’
Having survived a botched gender-reassignment surgery, the genderqueer East German rockstar Hedwig Robinson travels to West Germany to find her soulmate.
9. Victor/Victoria from ‘Victor/Victoria’
Victoria, a financially struggling singer, disguises herself as a man named Victor, who performs as Victoria and quickly becomes the new star of Paris. This role was Julie Andrews’ last role on Broadway.
10. Albin/Zaza from ‘La Cage Aux Folles’
The aging star of a Saint Tropez nightclub, Albin performs as “Zaza” while running the venue with his husband of 20 years, Georges.
11. Bernadette Bassenger from ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’
In this jukebox musical, the transgender performer Bernadette (originally played by Tony Sheldon) joins Tick and Adam in this comedy of errors throughout their travels in Australia.
12. Angel Schunard from ‘Rent’
An outrageously flamboyant drag queen percussionist who lives with AIDS, Angel is the love interest of Collins and is one of the best-loved characters in the show.
13. Draco Malfoy from ‘A Very Potter Musical’
Harry Potter’s rival from the book and film series is transformed here into a flamboyant, obnoxious caricature who unexpectedly develops feelings for Hermione Granger.
14. Peter Pan from ‘Peter Pan’
Traditionally a trousers role even before Broadway, Peter Pan has been played on Broadway by Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby.
15. Pseudolus* from ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’
Alright, so this one was a one-time occurrence, but Whoopi Goldberg succeeded Nathan Lane in this role for the 1995 Broadway revival of “Forum.” An ancient Roman slave, Pseudolus tries to be free by helping Hero win Philia’s love.