A Whole New Level of Fabulous
Drag Wonderettes comes to Stages this month.
There’s a show coming to Stages that’s a real drag! Mitchell Greco, Stages’ associate artistic director, is putting on his director’s hat to bring Drag Wonderettes to the stage this month. The director takes us behind the scenes of this re-imagining of the jukebox musical comedy The Marvelous Wonderettes, featuring hits from the 1950s and ’60s. This production is putting a fresh and fabulous spin on a classic with plenty of sass, big hair, and campiness that will have audiences screaming “Yas, queens!”
Greco, a Sam Houston State University alumnus, summarizes his production’s source material saying, “The plot of Roger Bean’s original Marvelous Wonderettes is four girls in 1958 singing at their senior prom during act one. Then, act two takes place in 1968 at their ten-year high-school reunion. We find out where they ended up and how their friendship evolved and survived.”
The new production is a re-imagining of the classic original, and audiences will delight at the structure of the fresh script. “Much like the original Marvelous Wonderettes, I think the show is a celebration of friendship, love, and music,” Greco explains. “The basic structure is the same as the original, [but now] it’s a show within a show.” This fresh take opened creative doors for Greco and his team.
“The performers in Drag Wonderettes portray drag artists who are part of “The House of Amandas.” The queens find themselves at the local Elks Lodge putting on their own production of The Marvelous Wonderettes. There are two storylines going on at the same time. There’s the actual plot of The Marvelous Wonderettes, and then there’s the behind-the-scenes subplot of the House of Amandas.”
When it came time to cast the drag performers, Greco saw artists from across the drag spectrum. “We saw a good mix of folks who have done drag in their past, but also folks who [are excellent singers] who haven’t really done much drag,” he explains. The cast features Marco Comacho as Betty Jean, John Ryan del Bosque as Missy, Mark Ivy as Suzy, and Austin Colburn as Cindy Lou.
“We [wanted to] honor the fact that drag is an art form,” Greco adds. “We were figuring out how to thoughtfully meld the two worlds of really difficult musical theater—[the challenge of singing] tight, four-part harmonies for the entire show, and the art and celebration of drag.”
Greco is immensely grateful for the chance to work directly with Bean, the original show’s writer. “My favorite part is when we get everyone in a room,” he says. “I’m not the kind of leader who thinks my idea is the best and only idea. Most of the time, the group assembled is so talented and unique, so the best ideas come from collaboration. I look forward to whenever it’s not just me walking around with my dog thinking about the show every day.”
Greco promises that the show will have plenty of visuals to tickle the senses. “You can expect taffeta, feathers, and sequins—a heightened [sense of glamorous camp, compared to] the original show.” Greco even teases a surprise at the end that audiences will want to stick around for. “As a whole, the show is bigger, brighter, and more sparkly with bigger hair, bigger dresses, and bigger shoes.”
The show’s timing is purely serendipitous, having been scheduled long before the current wave of legislative attacks on drag artists across the country. Greco hopes the pure joy that the art form elicits will resonate with all audiences. “Drag is such a huge spectrum. You can see it in bars and on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Those styles are not the same, and they shouldn’t be the same,” he notes. “I think it’s a real opportunity, both for lovers of drag and folks who aren’t really that familiar. People who may not have even seen an episode of Drag Race will have an amazing time and sit in awe of the incredible artistry that these artists are capable of. And above all, everyone will have an incredible time with each other.
“The show remains what it has always been about: friendship, love, and music,” Greco concludes. “That’s why this new version of the show will resonate with fans of the original production. We’re all people on this earth, we all have friends, we all love, and we all go through times that we only get through because of the love of our friends and the community we surround ourselves with.”
WHAT: Drag Wonderettes
WHEN: May 19–July 2
WHERE: Stages, 600 Rosine St.