Times Square Angel is a drag-themed period piece bringing a classic Christmas story to the mean streets of mid-20th century New York, and Richmond Triangle Players bring it to fabulous life this holiday season.
The Richmond Triangle Players’ latest production, Times Square Angel, puts a new spin on Christmas themes. Described as “A Christmas Carol in the 1940s” by lead actor Luke Newsome — who performs as their drag persona, Wette Midler — the play follows Irish O’Flanagan, a jaded singer at a seedy 1940s Manhattan nightclub who becomes involved with an affluent and dangerous mobster. Irish is on the fast-track to self-destruction, but is put back on the right path by Albert (played by Jeffery Cole), an angel in the guise of a “sexy magician.”
“The [production] process itself has kind of been fast and furious,” said Director Melissa Rayford. One-third of Times Square Angel’s cast was also part of RTP’s previous production of The Rocky Horror Show, leading to a much shorter production time than usual.
“This is the hardest I’ve worked for any show that I’ve ever done,” said Newsome.
RTP’s version of Times Square Angel also had help from its own guardian angel, in the form of the play’s author, Charles Busch. Busch had been in town weeks earlier to put on a cabaret at RTP. His presence gave some of the cast a chance to pick his brain and gain a better understanding of the story. On top of passing down some insight to the cast and crew, Busch also added a little extra something to this particular production.
“He was able to meet with some of the cast and actually fulfill one of the items on my wish list, which was to have him record the narration for the play,” said Rayford. “It felt like such a wonderful opportunity… having his voice woven through the whole play.”
The script for RTP’s rendition of this play is also unique. Times Square Angel has been performed in places like New York for years, and has had several revisions over time. With Busch’s permission, Rayford was able to create a unique two-act version of the play that incorporates elements of scripts both past and present.
Rayford called Busch a “gay icon,” and said she was “thrilled to work on a piece of his.” Busch originally wrote this play with the intention of having the lead role be played by a drag performer — specifically himself. Both Rayford and Newsome said they enjoy the way the play combines traditional Christmas themes with an LGBTQ spin.
“It really fits with [RTP’s] mission statement,” said Rayford. “And also gives the queer community in this town… a wonderful place to come and feel at home for the holidays.”
“It’s queer-central and super campy, but what makes it very special is… it’s got a really big heart,” said Newsome. “No matter who is watching it, they’re going to get something out of it.”
Times Square Angel is currently playing at Richmond Triangle Players’ Robert B. Moss Theatre in Scott’s Addition, with a closing date of Saturday, December 21. There are 15 shows left in the run, so there’s plenty of time for you to see it for yourself. For tickets, visit Richmond Triangle Players’ website, rtriangle.org.
Photos by John MacLellan, courtesy Richmond Triangle Players.