Everyone has a role they would love to play but “can’t” because it is not their gender. This writer feels that there are plenty of roles that could be gender flipped and would have no negative effect on the show, and may even make the show better. Hamilton was revolutionary because it changed the race of famous figures who were white. That’s an excellent start for growing the diversity on stage; but I believe we can take it one step further. By changing the gender of certain roles, it gives a production a completely new take. It can make a show you’ve seen for years suddenly feel brand new, like you’re seeing it for the first time.
For this list I’ve selected 6 roles that we need to see gender flipped on Broadway. I’ve tried to limit this list to roles that are currently/recently were on Broadway. I also added a few I feel we will see in the near future.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
“There must have been a moment, at the beginning, were we could have said -- no. But somehow we missed it. ”
I’m sure this has happened in some community theatre somewhere, but I’d love to see what professionals could do with this. I think by having two females play the leads in this show you could add in a whole new perspective to it. These characters are famous for their comedic and thought-provoking dialogue and the chemistry two females could bring to the parts would be very entertaining and fresh. Tom Stoppard’s existentialist and absurdist piece begs to be performed in many different ways. Some people modernize it, some people do it traditionally, I’ve even seen a puppet show version (don’t ask). Why not let two females try their hand with this genius dark comedy?
Jason/Tyrone – Hand to God
“What is she saying to you when she tells you to behave? When she says sit down. Stay still. She is saying stay small. Be less. Be little. Which was fine when you were a child. But what about now?”
I personally love this show. I made a trip up to NYC last May just to see it. It’s another genius dark comedy that features a young teenage boy who develops a questionable alter ego who lives in his sock puppet named Tyrone. This is another part that I would love to see a female try her hand it (no pun intended). The puppet could be female or it could even be a male puppet, adding another layer of humor. Although we do see a female puppet in Hand to God it’s not the same as having the lead puppet be a female. It would also be an interesting dynamic to have a mother-daughter relationship as opposed to mother-son. The genius of Hand to God’s script is that the character of Jason must be able to flawlessly switch between his teenage voice and his dark puppet voice and I think a female could give this show that and more when it comes to the character of Jason. Or maybe Jenny?
Shakespeare – Something Rotten
“It’s hard to be the Bard”
Yes. It’s true. Shakespeare was a man, but Alexander Hamilton didn’t rap and look how well that worked out! I got the honor of seeing Christian Borle perform this live and he was just astonishing. He became a rock star on stage and was transformed into the David Bowie of iambic pentameter. I think a women could just as easily reach this rock star status, the Stevie Nicks of the renaissance, so to speak. The character would have just as much energy and impact on the show and could really belt out Shakespeare’s musical numbers. It would be just as fun to watch and if the costumes were even half as good as they were for Borle, the actress would turn herself into the true spectacle of the show.
The Witch – Into the Woods
“Don't you know what's out there in the world? Someone has to shield you from the world.”
This list does indeed have male gender swaps also and this is one of them. The idea came to me when I saw a video of Tituss Burgess singing “Stay With Me” on YouTube. Although Mr. Burgess might not be the right fit for that part, it would definitely be an interesting twist to have a male witch. Mothers love their children more than anything, there’s no doubt about that. However, there is a next level of love and protection when it comes to a father and his daughter. It would be very relatable and heartbreaking to see Rapunzel’s “father” act and sing all the scenes that are usually sung by her “mother”. The transformation of the witch into her young beautiful self would also be very interesting to see gender swapped. Imagine an old decrepit man suddenly turning into a handsome lad that could rival Prince Charming. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Elder Price – The Book of Mormon
“My family and friends all said I was blessed. So what happened?”
This one is purely for “outside the box” sake. Elder Price doesn’t have a love interest in this show so it’s not making a “statement” it would just be something new. Typically Mormon mission trips are two people of the same gender however there are exceptions such as a married couple or siblings. So it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility to have a female Elder Price with the male Elder Cunningham. This show is FULL of testosterone and it wouldn’t hurt to add a female lead. You could also take it one step further and have some of the supporting Mormons be females also. Plus a female could add a new perspective on some of the songs like “I Believe” and “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”. It would also allow for some fresh new choreography for the show, not that it’s bad now, it would just be different.
Éponine – Les Mis
“Without him, the world around me changes. The trees are bare and everywhere the streets are full of strangers”
This one is my personal favorite on this list as well as being the most “progressive” role to change. Éponine is one of my dream roles and I think the change could be made fairly easily. I even sing “On My Own” for auditions, I just change the “He’s & him’s” to “She’s and hers”. That wouldn’t be done on Broadway of course, I just do it to relate to the song more effectively. Éponine’s struggle is one of unrequited love and what’s a more depressing/effective way to portray this than a same sex love that can’t be reciprocated. It’s not that Marius choses Cosette over Eponine, He just can’t love Éponine like he could a female. I think this would be a brilliant way to “catch up with the times” we’re living in. All the songs would be just as beautiful and possibly even more heartbreaking I hope to see this happen one day even if I don’t get to originate it!