Posted in cross dressing, Edwardian and Victorian Music Halls, male impersonators of the stage, singing, Vaudeville

Girls Will Be Boys

Naturally impersonation is about creating an illusion.

Jessica Walker in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” at 59E59. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” playing at 59E59 Theaters through May 19th, co-author and performer Jessica Walker salutes the women who wore the pants in Victorian and Edwardian era music halls and on America’s vaudeville stages.

These ladies in trousers, like Miss Hetty King, Ella Shields, or the 6-foot Gladys Bentley from Harlem, dressed the part but sang in their natural register. Hiding in plain sight, in men’s clothing, achieved great success and had a large following. Walker and her co-writer, Neil Bartlett suggest that their admirers were complicit co-conspirators in women-worship.

Jessica Walker in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” at 59E59. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

It’s a fact that some of these professional cross-dressers may have been lesbians. One, Annie Hindle, in fact managed a marriage by signing the certificate with a man’s name. Nice tidbit, and there are some others in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” that will amuse and edify. But, unfortunately, the historical thesis of the show is neither shocking nor all that interesting.

Joe Atkins at the piano with Jessica Walker in “The Girl I Left Behind  Me.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In full gentlemanly attire, with tails and tophat– one of several she doffs for her performance,–Walker shows off a finevoice and a nice way around a variety of musical styles, even the operatic.

“The Girl I Left Behind Me” is presented by Jess Walker Musical Theatre and is part of the Brits Off Broadway. Learn more about “The Girl I Left Behind Me”at

Posted in Charles Dickens, Chita Rivera, cross dressing, exotica, Jim Norton, opiates, Rupert Holmes, The Mysrery of Edwin Drood, Will Chase

Unfinished Business

Let’s face it, none of us likes to be left hanging. It’s natural to want to know how a story, once begun, ends.

 Due to a habit of writing for serialization, and his sudden death, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was a bit of unfinished business for Mr. Charles Dickens.Fortunately, Rupert Holmes came along with a wonderfully theatrical solution in his rendition of  “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” in a revival at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54 through this weekend. (Clsoing March 10th after a splendid and extended run.)

For the occasion of this production, the entire theater is turned into London’s Music Hall Royale at the turn of the century, presided over the master of ceremonies, The Chairman/Mr. William Cartwright (Jim Norton).

Holmes’ musical of  “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”  is set as a solid Victorian melodrama enveloped in a lively vaudeville. Since this is a play within a review, each cast member has two parts, as actor and character of rhe play within. The audience participates, all the way to “voting” on whodunnit and is incited to applause and mayhem from the beginning to the end.

There is a villain, John Jasper/Mr. Clive Paget (Will Chase) and the delicate ingenue, Rosa Bud/Miss Deirdre Peregrine (Betsy Wolfe) whom he pursues even though she is engaged to his nephew, Edwin Drood, played in the play within the vaudeville by Miss Alice Nutting, the company’s male impersonator (Stephanie J. Block.)

It is the Princess Puffer. the Music Hall’s doyenne, Miss Angela Prysock (Chita Rivera) who supplies John with the opiates that fuel is evil spirits.

The  “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is grand fun. William Ivey Long’s opulent costumes add to the playful tone set by Scott Ellis’s direction and the superb cast.

For more information about  “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” go to