Jinkx Monsoon on playing a woman in a man's world in 'Chicago'
The RuPaul's Drag Race star makes her Broadway debut in the long-running musical.
The category is: Broadway. From January 16, two-time RuPaul's Drag Race champion Jinkx Monsoon is trading Rusicals for musicals to make her Broadway debut in Chicago through March 12.
But the theatre scene isn't new to Monsoon. She holds a BFA in theatre from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and she's performed in multiple major musicals in that same city. Hairspray, Rent, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Spring Awakening are just a few of her high-profile musical credits (aside from her impression of Judy Garland on Drag Race All Stars).
Now, she's the latest in a long line of famous actors — and the first drag queen — to play the keen, opportunistic prison official Matron "Mama" Morton. Monsoon spoke with New York Theatre Guide on her unique connection to the character, other Broadway divas that influence her, and what her existing fanbase can expect from her performance during her eight weeks on Broadway.
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How is the experience of doing Broadway different than doing a show like Drag Race?
This rehearsal process has been different from anything I've ever done before because I'm coming into a show that's been running for so long, with good reason. But this show just keeps running, and they have a whole system for getting people in. So I just relax into knowing that everyone else knows what they're doing so well that it doesn't matter that I'm still finding my way. Honestly, they've given me so much trust and faith, and I feel so welcomed into this process that if they're not freaking out, I'm not freaking out.
What can current fans of your drag work expect from your performance in Chicago?
I love the chance to play someone other than Jinkx because I play Jinkx the most. I'll never stop playing her — we're in it forever. But I love the chance to get to portray a different character. It's still me. It'll still be me in the costume and stuff, but don't come expecting to see Jinkx Monsoon play Mama Morton. Come expecting to see Mama Morton.
So what is your unique perspective on that iconic character?
Mama Morton is this very fascinating character because she's simultaneously compassionate, but also very pragmatic and and very business-oriented. She has simple rules, and if you follow them, you get along great with her. But what I love most about Mama is that she has adapted in a man's world to be a woman with power.
You see that in every line, you see that in every portrayal, and that's what I'm excited to bring, because it's got an extra layer. I'm a person who was not born perceived female, who's always resonated more with my femininity in a man's world, trying to figure that out. Now I'm going step into a character who has completely different circumstances, but similar outcomes.
Are there any famous theatre actors that inspire your performance style?
Oh, absolutely. Audra McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Madeline Kahn — she did some Broadway, and she has inspired so much of my work. I'm of course more familiar with her in films. Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Bette Midler. These women have been with me my whole life, and I feel them with me in this. I don't know any of them personally, but their voices are ringing in my head throughout all of this.
Lots of drag queens have headlined NYC theatre as of late: Rosé in Titanique, Peppermint in Head Over Heels. What does it mean to you to be part of this movement?
It feels like this new thing happening now. It's just happening at this level now, but drag queens have existed in theatre, actors find themselves doing drag — this is commonplace for all of us. We're just finally being welcomed into the top tier of what we've always been doing. And it's about time, because drag performers are performers like any other performer. We just choose to do it in drag. So there's no reason to keep us separated from all the fun with the [other] humans.
Which Chicago character would win Drag Race and why?
Roxie Hart would definitely win Drag Race because Roxie Hart does whatever it takes to win. It would be that we would all think Velma was the shoo-in and it was Velma's race to lose, and then at the last minute, we'd go, "(gasp) Roxie's taken it!" But maybe they'd do a double crowning that year.
Which Broadway show would make a good Rusical?
I mean, Chicago's an obvious one. What I love about Chicago is there are so many wonderful female roles, and the ratio is not always as such.
But maybe I have to write it. What it is, is I need to write it. DeLa [drag performer Ben DeLaCreme] and I will write Alice in Wonderland: A Drag Fantasy. I've been thinking about it for years; it's brilliant.
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This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Originally published on