Artwork (c) Adam Villers 2020
Trans and non-binary characters in musical theatre
Musical theatre has often been slow to represent trans and non-binary characters in its narratives. Fortunately, organisations such as Trans Voices Cabaret have been supporting and promoting trans and non-binary performers to the wider musical theatre industry.
It is important to remember that nearly any role can be played by a transgender performer - MJ Rodriguez recently played Audrey in the Pasadena Playhouse's production of Little Shop of Horrors and L Morgan Lee took the role of Thought 1 in A Strange Loop at Playwrights Horizons.
More recently, musical theatre writers have started to include trans and non-binary characters in their work. There are several musicals that have been developed with the involvement of trans creatives: Robin Simões da Silva is currently developing Brother with Annabel Mutale Reed; Kit Yan and Melissa Li's Interstate recently had its premiere production at Mixed Blood Theatre, and Joe Stevens and Keaton Wooden have provided the songs for The Civility of Albert Cashier and Paper Or Plastic. Musical Theatre Factory in New York workshopped two superhero musicals with central trans characters - Shapeshifters by Truth Bachman and Wonder Boy by Jaime Jarrett, and Ariel Hope Stump's online development of Bad Queers explores characters that identify across the LGBTQ* community.
Trans and queer representation on Broadway and in the West End has been more sparse and creatives often seem to be less explicit about these characters. Nevertheless, Ezra Menas' performances as Jo in Jagged Little Pill have drawn attention for presenting a non-binary version of the character, and the recent West End production of & Juliet includes May, a genderfluid character. Peppermint also appeared as Pythio in the Broadway production of Head Over Heels, and the Public Theater of Southern Comfort (the story of the trans community established by Robert Eads) starred actors Donnie Cianciotto and Aneesh Sheth. It is notable, though, that none of these musicals have included trans creatives or writers.