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The Dress Circle: Musical Cross-Dressing

So much is being said about cross-dressing and drag currently that we thought we’d take a look at how musicals have looked at this aspect of theatre on this week’s Dress Circle (4/16 7:00 p.m.). Men portraying women on stage were a major part of Greek and Roman theatre as well as early European theatre mainly because women weren’t allowed to appear on stage. However, once that taboo was overturned, women often portrayed men, especially in operas and British Pantomimes.

With all of this in mind, we’ve gathered some rather mainstream and celebrated musicals to look at this aspect of theatre that has been with us since shortly after Thespis first leapt from the Greek chorus to declaim his lines around 535 B.C..

We’ve chosen two musicals to showcase women playing men, and the earlier is “Peter Pan” where the role of the boy who wouldn’t grow up was always played by a woman until near the end of the 20th century and “Victor/Victoria” which, of course, came to Broadway featuring Victoria pretending to be Victor who gains stardom by “cross-dressing” as a woman.

On the other side, we’ll hear from the gentlemen who performed as Mary Sunshine in “Chicago,” Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda,” Sylvia in “Ruthless,” and Josephine and Daphne in “Sugar” among others.

All politics aside, cross-dressing and drag have enjoyed a very long and accepted place in the world of the theatre, and we’ll be pulling together as many performances as we can for this week’s program.

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Ted Otten is co-host of The Dress Circle
Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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