From the sublime to the offensive, Disney films are rife with gay characters. The Little Mermaid’s brassy sea witch, Ursula, is based on the drag queen Divine. The eyelashes of the genie from Aladdin put RuPaul to shame. And the effeminacy of The Lion King’s Scar is overshadowed only by Timon and Pumbaa’s flamboyant affair.
So it’s no surprise there’s so much drag in Ross Petty Productions’ upcoming holiday show, Cinderella: The Gags to Riches Family Musical.
Each year Ross Petty Productions puts on a pantomime for the holidays; they take a simple, classic tale, such as Snow White or The Little Mermaid, alter the story a bit and add jokes and some modern songs whose lyrics fit with the tale.
“It becomes ridiculous and funny. Usually a panto has a message it’s trying to convey,” says Nicko Giannakos, who’s performing in the holiday production for the first time this year. “In this show, Cinderella runs an organic food market and wants to go to the ball to spread a message about kids eating healthier foods.”
As well as being a member of the ensemble, Giannakos is Ross Petty’s understudy. If some ill should befall Petty — and nobody’s pointing fingers here (Psst! Giannakos did it!) — Giannakos will get on his dress, wig and scowl and play the audience-taunting evil stepmother.
“There’s kind of a tradition of this. For instance, in the ballet version of Cinderella, the roles of the ugly stepsisters and stepmother are usually played by men,” Giannakos says. “They’re meant to be hideous, and it’s easier to make an ugly woman out of a man. I can tell you right now that I make an ugly woman.”
Giannakos most enjoys Dan Chameroy’s character, Plumbum, who recurs in Ross Petty shows. “Plumbum is playing the Fairy Godmother. She’s a really crazy drag queen, with makeup all over her face, and she’s hysterically funny,” he says. “Dan often [ad libs], and we’re laughing onstage as much as the audience when he says these crazy things.”