The timeless allure of “To Wong Foo” – a drag classic reimagined at Hope Mill Theatre

Step into the dazzling world of drag with "To Wong Foo the Musical," a heartfelt tribute to chosen family and the drag community's rich history.

1995 was a landmark year for many reasons, Oasis’ second studio album (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory was at the top of the charts, software giant Microsoft launched the groundbreaking Windows 95, and most importantly, Douglas Carter-Beane’s hit film and soon-to-be beloved cult classic, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar was released.

Now, 28 years later, it’s back and bigger than ever!

With direction from the Tony Award-winning writer of the original film, Douglas Carter Beane, To Wong Foo the Musical, follows three Drag Queen’s- the inimitable Miss Vida Boheme, the stunning Noxeema Jackson and Diamond in the Rough, ChiChi Rodríguez as they journey across America to attend the prestigious Drag Queen of the Year Finals in Hollywood.

Expect hijinks and high heels as well as original music from skilled composer Lewis Flinn.

We caught up with Gregory Haney to talk about the joys and challenges of playing such an iconic role as Noxeema Jackson.

How is it working at the Hope Mill Theatre?

It’s going really well! Everyone at the Hope Mill is so friendly, we already feel like a family.

They’ve been really helpful and it’s such a nice, safe space.

I’ve only ever been to Manchester for Pride before so I’m excited to get a fuller picture of the city!

To Wong Foo is such an iconic film, how does it feel to be people’s first introduction to this story?

It feels really special.

Obviously, it’s a story about three drag queens and the journey they go on together, so it’s an ode to chosen family and the relationships we form with each other as gay people.

It is a real reflection of the community as it was in 1995, so it feels great to preserve that for modern audiences who maybe haven’t been exposed to it before.

Were there any specific scenes you were excited to perform?

Yes! There are so many quotable moments that I am really looking forward to. I think “Little Latin boy in drag, why are you crying?” is a highlight for sure! It’s so iconic.

How much has the original film impacted your performance in the musical?

I mean, obviously, Wesley Snipes did such an amazing job, and he was inspired by strong Black women, so I really want to pay homage to that, because the whole show is essentially a love letter to women.

I grew up watching To Wong Foo and it was a really formative film for me.

I think because the music is completely original that helps to differentiate the two.

What can audiences expect from the original music?

Douglas and Lewis did a really amazing job!

The music is very eclectic, the song that Noxeema gets to sing is jazz but there’s club music and country as well.

It reflects not only the film but the music of the community at the time.

How do you think the story itself has aged?

We have to acknowledge that the film was set in 1995 and some things like the words or phrases we use have changed since then.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing- But we’re not trying to change that.

It’s an honest reflection of the community at the time and the respect and good intentions were there and that was the language we had at the time.

Do you think To Wong Foo will broaden people’s understanding of drag?

Well, drag is an art form.

And shows like Drag Race tend to only show one aspect of drag in terms of the way they paint or whatever else, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing but this may be people’s first introduction to the traditions of pageants and ballroom culture so that feels really special.

To Wong Foo the Musical begins a nine-week run at the Hope Mill Theatre from 21st October to 17th December 2023.

Tickets are available here


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