'Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens' Revived With Full, Campy Force
BOYSTOWN — It's a fairy tale — with fairy underlined. It's savory, sweet and, of course, gay.
It's "Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens," and the original MidTangent Productions musical — which replaces dwarves with platform-heel-wearing queens — will be reviving this month, five years after making its debut at at Hydrate Nightclub, 3458 N. Halsted St.
Since then, MidTangent, one of the few companies dedicated to incorporating drag queens into theatrical productions, has made a home at the club.
And five years has been a nice long time for the drag scene to catch up to MidTangent's needs for campy, gay bar theater. A lot has changed — and much of it for the better, said Tony Lewis, writer and director at the niche, camp theater production company.
With the popularity of reality show "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the rise of collaboration among Chicago queens, this round of "Snow White" was able to make use of more talent, more queens and more experience.
"Oh, my God, it was so crazy," Lewis said of casting the show. "We had six drag queens to cast, and we had 30 people come out. ...Five years ago, I was begging my buddy to play Doc."
"Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens" turns the fairy tale into a story in which Snow White threatens the villain Malificent's place as "the most fabulous in the eyes of the gays," Lewis said.
It's different from Lewis's original version, where Malificent was a drag queen whose career was being threatened by Snow White helping the other queens.
The change kind of reflects changes in Chicago's drag scene. The newer version builds on communal love among drag queens, versus the "cutthroat, every queen for themselves" attitude of the past, Lewis said.
"These younger girls, they all really like and support each other and have built a community, which is really cool to see," he said.
Drag queens and actors also didn't really intersect much before. The show could find actors, and it could find queens, but it was hard to find people who did both, Lewis said.
Both Lewis and cast member Jennings Wynn ended up in drag for the first time for "Snow White" when no one else would play the roles.
"We had to take what we could find," said Wynn, whose drag alter ego Malibu Stacey plays "Happy Rosebud" in the show.
By comparison, the new queens in the cast come from performance backgrounds — acting, singing, dancing, comedy. For them, shows like MidTangent's are rare as far as drag opportunities go, said cast member Loren Agron, whose alter ego Debbie Fox plays "Grumpy Hangover."
Most gigs focus on lip syncing.
"This is a diamond in the rough," he said.
Aaron Michael Adamkiewicz, whose alter ego Sofanda Booze plays "Dopey Dupree," said it's been obvious that the MidTangent's shows have had more potential "crackling under the surface."
But with today's slew of talent and years of experience under MidTangent's belt, the new "Snow White" can really take gay fairytale theater to the next level, he said.
"Now," he said, "we finally get to explode."
"Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens" debuts at 8 p.m. April 17 at Hydrate, 3458 N. Halsted St. It runs on Fridays and Saturdays until May 17. Tickets cost $15.