Whether it’s cross-dressing, drag, or transgender characters, the New York stage has welcomed all kinds of gender ambiguity. Of course the theater has blurred lines between the sexes even before Shakespeare cast men as his female leads.
This spring several shows have opened exploring the topic.
Here are our Top 5 characters that embrace in drag:
1. Albin in La Cage aux Folles. When a musical takes place in a transvestite club, there are sure to be men wearing high heels. Douglas Hodge wears them gracefully in this musical comedy that takes an albeit sugarcoated slap at conservative definitions of family.
2. Leslie Jordan as himself in My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. The diminutive Jordan best known for being Karen Walker’s foil, Beverley Leslie, on Will & Grace candidly talks about playing a Tammy Wynette-obsessed drag queen in his one man show at the Midtown Theater.
3. Mary Sunshine in Chicago. Though not envisioned as a man, the female-crusader Mary Sunshine in the Kander and Ebb revival has sung in falsetto for the past 13 years. It’s just one way this musical about female murderers and their male victims bends genders.
4. Gary Coleman in Avenue Q. Perhaps casting for an 'Arnold out-of Different Strokes type' forced the creators of Avenue Q, the salty off-Broadway puppet musical, to look for a female impersonator. The decision is one of the milder shots taken at the troubled 80s TV star.
5. Man 1 and Man 2 in 39 Steps. With only four actors and several Hitchcock movies’ worth of characters, it’s inevitable that Man 1 and 2 sometimes transform into women -- usually matronly type ready to flirt freely with the protagonist.