This summer, when Head Over Heels lands on Broadway, Peppermint – beloved New York City drag performer and season 9 contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race – will make history as the first transgender woman to originate a role on Broadway. Anachronistically singing the songs of The Go-Go’s in an Elizabethan period piece, Peppermint plays Pythio, a gender-fluid oracle ready to spout off ominous prophecies and discuss the correct use of gender pronouns.
“Being able to help craft a beautiful story that's very inclusive and diverse and having the opportunity to originate that role, it is something that I don't take lightly in any way,” says Peppermint. This landmark moment echoes the signifiers of an ongoing cultural shift. Joining the ranks of transgender actress Laverne Cox and artists of color like Kendrick Lamar, Peppermint now serves as a beacon for inclusion and representation while actively tearing down barriers. “It just shows that organizations, companies, and the gatekeepers of some of these processes are finally recognizing the contributions of people of color and minorities,” she explains. “It's almost unavoidable because the landscape has changed so much.”
Taylor Iman Jones as Mopsa (center) and the company ("We Got the Beat")
The gravitas of this historic moment may sound best paired with some heavy, thought-provoking drama. Yet, Head Over Heels is a plucky love story based on Sir Phillip Sidney’s Arcadia updated with contemporary themes. “Many of the characters, including the oracle, deal with sexuality and gender from a non-binary approach,” Peppermint says. “That really resonates personally with me. And, I believe it will resonate with everyone, but specifically for people in the queer community.”
The significance of these timely themes come from the way the plot and characters are constructed. “The oracle has a very nuanced and progressive view on many of those topics that some of the characters may or may not share,” Peppermint explains. These more liberal viewpoints certainly color the divinations of Pythio. “The royal family thinks they have it made, but I've got a message to deliver,” Says Peppermint. “And, it's a message of possible impending doom unless they change their ways.”
The Head Over Heels company (opening tableau of "We Got the Beat")
Originating a role for a whimsically cheerful Broadway musical that promises depth for audiences who to look for it is not the only thing on Peppermint’s docket though. In addition to her upcoming Broadway run, Peppermint is also promoting Blend, her project with acclaimed gay rapper Cazwell. “It's fresh and still hot off the stove, so you can pick it up today,” she says. Consistently hustling and grinding, she promises there will be more albums, more movies, and maybe even more Broadway shows. “I never stop working. Sleep when you’re dead,” Peppermint proclaims with laughter.
Head Over Heels began its pre-Broadway engagement on April 10 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, California. It continues through May 6. The musical will play Broadway’s Hudson Theatre in New York, with previews slated to begin on June 23 and an opening set for July 26.
Directed by Michael Mayer
Choreography by Spencer Liff
Production Photos: Joan Marcus